December 12, 2019 - 11:50 AMT
Israel to hold Knesset elections on March 2

Israelis are headed for a third election in one year after the Knesset dissolved itself on Wednesday, December 11 following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz's failure to form a governing coalition, Haaretz reports.

Israeli lawmakers passed overnight a bill to hold the third election on March 2, 2020.

Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu consulted with his attorneys over whether it would be legally wise to forgo his right to request immunity from prosecution in the three criminal cases he was charged in if he and his rivals manage to overcome the current political deadlock and set up a government. Gantz announced Tuesday that he was willing to negotiate with the prime minister if he would not request immunity.

Likud MK David Bitan expressed optimism for the right-wing bloc in the third election: "I think this is Netanyahu's last chance, and maybe he can actually get 61 seats," he told Channel 12 News. "I think most of the right-wing voters who didn't vote last time will go vote."

He added that Shas Chairman Arye Dery once faced indictment and received 17 seats in an election. "It doesn't rule out that the majority of the public that supports Netanyahu and the right will go vote specifically because of this," he said. "Netanyahu will need to do the work, and that's why I'm against a [party leadership] primary." Likud, Bitan said, will lose 10 seats if Netanyahu is not at the helm.

According to a Channel 13 News poll published on Tuesday, Kahol Lavan would get 37 out 120 Knesset seats in a potential election, while Likud is predicted 33, possibly allowing Gantz to form a narrow coalition with other center-left parties and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu.

Lieberman slammed former ally Netanyahu on Wednesday morning, saying he had been subjected to “smears, distortions and malicious versions.” Contradicting claims by Netanyahu and the people around him, Lieberman said he had never intended to set up a narrow coalition with Kahol Lavan, but would have supported a broad unity government.