JERUSALEM — In the most expected surprise declaration of 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced the dissolution of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and elections to be held in early April.
The move comes days after U.S. President Donald Trump roiled the region with the startling announcement he was immediately withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, and as his long-anticipated plan to renew peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians appears to be have shriveled.
A 2019 electoral campaign was inevitable, in fact. Netanyahu’s four-year mandate runs out in November 2019, but Monday’s unforeseen move became inescapable when Netanyahu was unable to muster the necessary votes to pass a popular law levying heavier fines against orthodox Jewish seminary students who dodge Israel’s otherwise universal draft of 18-years-olds on religious grounds.
Elections have been in the air since Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation last month, which left the survival of Netanyahu’s coalition hanging by a single Knesset vote.
Lieberman has since taunted Netanyahu for his “government for survival,” but the prime minister remains the most popular leader in Israel’s rambunctious multi-part political process.
The next three months will see Bibi, as Netanyahu is widely known, confront unprecedented tests, none more challenging than his own precarious legal predicament.
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