Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

The Israeli parliament on Wednesday passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2. (AFP)
Updated 11 December 2019

Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

  • On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2
  • New elections would add to the political challenges facing Benjamin Netanyahu

JERUSALEM: Israel’s parliament began rushing through a bill on Wednesday to call a third general election within a year as talks between embattled premier Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival broke down ahead of a midnight deadline.
A deal to avert a new election must be reached before 11:59 p.m. (2159 GMT), following a deadlocked vote in September.
But Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz, both of whom have repeatedly failed to build a governing majority in the Knesset, or parliament, have spent days trading blame for failing coalition talks.
On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2.
It must face three more plenary readings and votes during the day before being passed.
New elections would add to the political challenges facing Netanyahu — Israel’s longest serving premier, now governing in a caretaker capacity — at a time when, weakened by corruption charges, he must fend off internal challengers in his right-wing Likud party.
Netanyahu and Gantz, a former armed forces chief who heads the centrist Blue and White party, had been discussing a potential unity government, but disagreed on who should lead it.
Last month, when Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges, Gantz called on him to step down.
On Tuesday night Netanyahu called on Gantz to stop “spinning.”
“After 80 days, it’s time that for one day, for the citizens of Israel, we sit and have a serious discussion about forming a broad unity government. It’s not too late,” he said on social media.
Gantz said his party was making “efforts to find a way to form a government without us giving up the fundamental principles that brought us into politics.”
If confirmed, it would be the first time Israel’s weary electorate has been asked to go to the polls for a third time within 12 months.
The parties of Netanyahu and Gantz were nearly deadlocked in September’s election, following a similarly inconclusive poll in April.
Israel’s proportional system is reliant on coalition building, and both parties fell well short of the 61 seats needed to command a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Both were then given 28-day periods to try and forge a workable coalition but failed, forcing President Reuven Rivlin to turn to parliament with his deadline for Wednesday.
New elections are deeply unpopular with the Israeli public, which has expressed mounting anger and frustration with the entire political class.
Both parties had been trying to convince Avigdor Lieberman, a crucial kingmaker, to join their blocs.
But the former nightclub bouncer, whose secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party holds the balance of power, has refused.
Kann Radio reported Tuesday that Netanyahu had abandoned hopes of earning Lieberman’s endorsement.
Lieberman pointed out that Likud and Blue and White wouldn’t need his support if they could agree to work together.
“If during the next 24 hours a government is not formed it will be solely because the leaders of the two big parties — Likud and Blue and White — were not willing to set aside their egos,” he said on Facebook Tuesday.
“All the rest is lies and excuses.”
Netanyahu was indicted last month for bribery, breach of trust and fraud relating to three separate corruption cases.
He strongly denies the allegations and accuses the media, police and prosecution of a witch-hunt.
No date has yet been set for the beginning of the proceedings and, under Israeli law, Netanyahu can remain in office despite an indictment.
He also faces a potential challenge from within his own Likud party.
To boost his support, Netanyahu has pushed his plan to annex a strategic part of the occupied West Bank, as well as signing a defense treaty with the United States.
He is a close ally of US President Donald Trump, who has taken a number of controversial steps in support of Netanyahu’s agenda.
Blue and White, meanwhile, pledged Monday to run with only one leader in the next election — Gantz.
Previously Yair Lapid, second in command in the coalition, was meant to alternate the premiership, but on Monday Lapid said: “We’ll all get behind Benny Gantz, our candidate for prime minister.”
Despite Netanyahu’s indictment, polls suggest that a third round of elections could still be neck and neck — prompting some Israelis to speculate about yet another electoral stalemate.
A commentary writer for the Israel Hayom newspaper suggested that “a fourth election is even now visible on the horizon sometime in early September 2020.”


Egypt hosts talks over Libyan reconciliation process

Updated 30 September 2020

Egypt hosts talks over Libyan reconciliation process

  • The Red Sea coast city of Hurghada has been playing host to discussions over stabilizing a cease-fire in the country

CAIRO: Talks aimed at paving the way for a political and economic solution to the conflict in Libya have been taking place in Egypt.

The Red Sea coast city of Hurghada has been playing host to discussions over stabilizing a cease-fire in the country, securing oil fields and oil installations, and establishing government institutions and infrastructure.

Officials taking part in the security meeting are working to set up military committees in the east and west of Libya with a view to them forming a unified force for the country and reaching a comprehensive settlement based on the outcomes of January’s Berlin Conference and the resulting Cairo Declaration.

Political adviser to the speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives, Fathi Al-Marimi, said all Libyan forces were currently gearing up for a meeting in Geneva next month with talks on the selection of a new presidential council — which would consist of a president, two deputies, a prime minister and two deputies representing the regions of Cyrenaica, Fezzan, and Tripoli — and economic, military, and security issues going forward.

During the first half of October, Cairo will host the largest conference for the Libyan national reconciliation process with the participation of officials, tribal elders, and other representatives, to map out a comprehensive peace plan.

Hassan Al-Mabrouk, a member of the preparatory committee for the reconciliation conference, said: “The committee contacted many leaders from various Libyan regions, including Misrata, Tripoli, and all regions of the west, south, and east, and they expressed their willingness to participate in the reconciliation conference in Cairo in October.”

He added that the committee urged Libyan authorities, the international community, and all relevant organizations to help solve the Libyan crisis and preserve the unity and sovereignty of the country without external interference. This would include the removal of mercenaries and the disbanding of militias.

National reconciliation could only be achieved through the immediate release of prisoners and detainees, Al-Mabrouk said, along with the implementation and generalization of a general amnesty law issued by the Libyan Parliament, and the return of displaced people.

He added that social leaders, scholars, and imams had a religious and social duty to succeed in bringing the nation together in peace and that 10 years of war, blood, destruction, waste of wealth and hatred among Libyans should provide sufficient food for thought.

“Holding the conference before the Geneva meeting will contribute to creating an atmosphere for the political transition by representing all groups in the next stage,” he said.