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Early elections for Israel!

Early elections for Israel!

Matters have not been going the way of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife way in recent times. As if charges of wrongdoing against him and his wife brought up by the police were not enough, the leaders of Israel's coalition government decided to dissolve the Knesset and hold early elections in April, nearly eight months earlier than required by law. Netanyahu's right-wing coalition has a razor-thin majority and has been struggling to pass a new bill that would extend the military draft to ultra-Orthodox Jewish students. The razor-thin edge is certainly proving to be crucial in more ways than one. Netanyahu confirmed, "the heads of the coalition parties decided to unanimously disperse the Knesset and call for new elections at the beginning of April."

The speaker of the Knesset has announced the elections would be held on April 9. The Israeli government has been having difficulties on several fronts. A military confrontation with Palestinian militants last month followed a botched Israeli operation in Gaza that killed one of its soldiers. Seven Palestinians, including a senior Hamas military commander, also died. An eventual ceasefire prompted the resignation of the then defence minister, Avigdor Liberman, who denounced it as a "capitulation to terror." The resignation of Liberman, the hardline leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, left the government with 61 seats, a majority of only one seat, in the 120-seat Knesset. That narrow majority made it difficult to implement a ruling by Israel's High Court of Justice last September concerning a 2015 law that grants most yeshiva students exemption from conscription. The court ordered lawmakers to issue new guidelines for the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox Jews. Netanyahu would need every member of his coalition to pass a controversial bill that extends the military draft to comply with the ruling. Ultra-Orthodox members of the coalition vehemently reject the bill, leading to a crisis within his government. The political turbulence comes against the backdrop of criminal investigations that have hit Netanyahu and his inner circle. Israeli police insist there is enough evidence to indict him on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three separate investigations. Netanyahu denies wrongdoing: "I believe nothing will come of it because there is nothing in it," he said. Opposition member Shelly Yachimovich of the Zionist Union said news of an early election produced a "sigh of relief." "It is impossible to continue with a government whose Prime Minister is under recommendation of indictments of the state attorneys and the police for fraud," Yachimovich said. Netanyahu is currently in his fourth term as Prime Minister. A national election was required under Israeli law to be held by November 2019. Now he is a worried man.

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