Bennett agreed with his main ally, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid – who will now replace him as chairman early next week – to push for a bill to dissolve parliament, which could trigger a general election later this year. .
The announcement came after weeks of political uncertainty in Israel, but still came as a big surprise.
A brief statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said the move was “following the exhaustion of efforts to maintain the alliance”. The report added that a bill would be tabled in parliament next week.
If passed, Lapidte will become the country’s fourteenth prime minister, according to an original coalition agreement reached last year. This means that the Israelis are going to vote for the fifth time in four years.
Among the first items on Lapid’s agenda, he is expected to preside over and prepare for the visit of US President Joe Biden next month. A senior executive said the president’s visit to the Middle East was expected to continue despite the political turmoil in Israel.
“We have a strategic relationship with Israel that goes beyond any government. The president looks forward to coming next month,” a White House official said.
The Bennett-Lapid government took office in June last year, ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s ten-year term as prime minister.
With no less than eight political parties, the coalition extends across the political spectrum, including for the first time an Arab party led by Mansour Abbas.
In May 2020, it united in its desire to prevent Netanyahu, who had already begun a corruption investigation, from continuing in power, with various coalition partners agreeing to set aside their significant differences.
In November, it recorded a significant domestic record, passing the state budget for the first time in almost four years.
But recent weeks have seen many coalition members walk out or threaten to leave, leaving the government without a majority in parliament to pass legislation.
The political stalemate came to a head earlier this month when the Knesset failed to hold a referendum on the application of Israeli criminal and civil law to Israelis in the occupied West Bank.
Among other things, the regulation, which is renewed every five years, gives Israeli immigrants the same rights as Israeli citizens, and is a source of hope for right – wing members of the coalition, including Prime Minister Bennett.
But two members of the coalition failed to support the bill, which was passed. If parliament is dissolved before July 1, the regulation will remain in place until a new government is formed.
Speaking to Lapid on Monday evening, Bennett said their government had erased what he called the bitterness and stagnation of the Netanyahu era, and instead brought dignity and confidence to the center.
“Over the past few weeks, we have done everything we can to save this government. In our view, its existence continues in the national interest. Believe me, we have seen under every rock that we did not do this for ourselves. But for our beautiful country, for you, the citizens of Israel.”
For his part, Lapid praised Bennett as a brave and innovative leader. And he seemed to be issuing a clear warning of the dangers of returning to Netanyahu’s leadership.
“What we need to do today is go back to the idea of Israeli unity. We must not let the dark forces tear us apart,” he said.
On the contrary, Netanyahu was excited and said the country was smiling when he saw what he called the evening of great news.
“It is clear to everyone that the worst government in the history of the country has come to an end, after a determined struggle by the opposition in the Netherlands and the great suffering of the people in Israel.”
Netanyahu and his supporters are excited by recent polls, which show that his right-wing and religious parties are strong, yet not strong enough to win a majority in parliament.