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Israeli parliament votes to dissolve in step towards fifth election in three years

Israeli lawmakers attend a preliminary vote on a bill to dissolve parliament and call an early election, at the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in occupied al-Quds on June 22, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday voted to dissolve the parliament, also known as Knesset, setting the stage for Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu's possible comeback and the unceremonious exit of sitting premier Naftali Bennett. 

Marking the first step in a series of votes, the Knesset voted unanimously in a preliminary reading of a bill to dissolve itself, which is expected to be finalized next week, after which foreign minister Yair Lapid will take over from Bennett on an interim basis under an existing agreement.

It came two days after Bennett announced his plan to disband the embattled cabinet during a televised news conference, just over a year after assuming office.

The Israeli prime minister said he had made “the right decision” in difficult circumstances, as dissolving the Knesset extended temporary laws which were put in jeopardy by the vote.

Israel is now set to hold a fifth general election in under four years, which could take place in late October, according to reports.

Monday's announcement comes after weeks of speculation that the coalition of eight ideologically diverse parties was on the brink of collapse.

Bennett formed the eight-party coalition in June 2021 after four successive inconclusive elections.

The ideologically divided coalition was an alliance of parties ranging from the Jewish right to an Arab Muslim party and included right-wingers like Bennett and Lapid's centrist Yesh Atid party.

The coalition lost its majority earlier this year and has been wracked by infighting and defections in recent months.

Israel held four inconclusive elections between 2019 and 2021, which were largely referendums about Netanyahu’s ability to rule while on trial for corruption.

According to opinion polls, Netanyahu’s hard-line Likud party is tipped to again emerge as the largest single party. But it remains unclear whether he would be able to muster the required support of a majority of lawmakers in Israel's 120-seat Knesset to form a new cabinet.

His rivals, on the left, right, and center, have vowed to prevent his return to power.

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