Netanyahu fires Lapid and Livni, calls for early elections

Flash polls show Likud and Naftali Bennett’s ‘Jewish Home’ parties as the biggest winners in new elections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for early elections after firing Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni Tuesday evening.

The decision to dismantle the current governing coalition comes amid clashes in the cabinet over a number of controversial laws, ranging from the ‘Jewish Nation-State Law‘ to a proposal to make purchasing a first home easier for army veterans to a law targeting the newspaper owned by Netanyahu’s wealthiest and influential benefactor, Sheldon Adelson.

Flash polls conducted by Israel’s two major television news channels Tuesday evening both predicted Netanyahu’s Likud gaining seats in new elections, giving it 22 seats. Naftali Bennett’s settler party Jewish Home would dramatically go up to 17 seats, according to the two polls. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beitenu party would receive between 10 and 12 seats. Those right-wing parties alone would compromise around 50 seats, just 10 shy of the number of mandates needed to form a government.

Labor, whose leader wasted no time going on television to present himself as an alternative to Netanyahu, received a mere 13 seats in both polls.

As Noam Sheizaf wrote in his analysis of the current situation, the next government is likely to be even more right wing than the current one.

In a prime-time press conference Tuesday night Netanyahu faced harsh questioning from Israeli reporters who told the prime minister that the Israeli public does not understand why new elections are necessary less than halfway through the current Knesset’s elected term. They accused him of hypocrisy in firing Livni and Lapid for criticizing him while brushing off much harsher criticism from far-right party heads Liberman and Bennett.

For his part, Netanyahu lamented that because the Likud didn’t receive enough votes in the last election he was forced into forming the current government with less-than-ideal coalition partners, whom he accused of making the government ungovernable.

Meretz leader Zehava Galon put out a statement summarizing Netanyahu’s press conference as saying: “I failed. Elect me again.”

Elections are expected to take place in March 2015, although no date will be known until the Knesset passes a law dissolving itself. The dissolution law will likely be voted on this week.

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