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Israeli Parliament advances Bill to dissolve, hold new elections

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JERUSALEM (AFP) – A panel of Israeli lawmakers on Tuesday (June 28) approved draft legislation to dissolve Parliament, a key legislative step that pushes Israel closer towards its fifth election in less than four years.

Members of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s outgoing coalition and the opposition led by ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu have been sparring in Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, since last week over a dissolution Bill.

The coalition said it wanted quick approval of the law after Mr Bennett announced last week that his year-old, ideologically divided eight-party alliance was no longer tenable.

But Mr Netanyahu and his allies have been holding talks seeking to form a new Netanyahu-led government within the current Parliament, averting new elections.

The sides have traded legislative jabs but finally agreed late Monday to advance a Bill that would be finalised as law by midnight Wednesday.

The opposition’s readiness to dissolve Parliament indicated Mr Netanyahu’s efforts to form a new government had stalled.

Early Tuesday, the Knesset House committee approved the Bill ahead of its first approval in a plenum vote, expected in hours.

According to the Bill, Parliament would dissolve, with new elections to be held on Oct 25 or Nov 1, an issue to be resolved in further negotiations.

The Bill must then be approved in two further full Knesset votes.

Midnight after the Bill’s secures final approval, Mr Bennett will hand power to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, in accordance with the power-sharing deal agreed between the pair following inconclusive elections last year.

The Bennett coalition, which counted religious nationalists, secular hawks, centrists, doves and Arab Islamists, was imperilled by ideological divides from its outset.

The final straw, according to the premier, was a failure to renew a measure that ensures Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank live under Israeli law.

Mr Bennett, the former head of a settler lobby group, said the measure’s expiration on June 30 would have brought security risks and “constitutional chaos”.

Dissolving Parliament before the expiration date means the so-called West Bank will remain in force until a new government takes office.

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