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EXPLAINER: Why so many elections in Israel?

Video credit: Reuters Studio
Published on March 1, 2020 - Duration: 02:39s

EXPLAINER: Why so many elections in Israel?

Israelis head to the polls on Monday for their third election in a year - hoping to break the country's political deadlock.

David Doyle reports.

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EXPLAINER: Why so many elections in Israel?

There'll be a sense of deja vu for Israeli voters on Monday (March 2) as they head to the polls for the third time in a year.

So why have there been so many elections?

Rewind to 2018 and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was about to become Israel's longest serving leader.

But the leader of the right wing Likud party had a precarious one-seat majority in parliament - and called a snap election for April 2019.

The immediate reason given was the vulnerability of his ruling coalition after the resignation of his defense minister.

But many saw it as a ploy to gain a renewed public mandate and ward off prosecutors who were then in the final stages of drafting charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust against him.

But the plan backfired; Netanyahu claimed victory but failed to get enough seats.

He then struggled for weeks to put together a government before triggering another election for September - rather that than give the chance to form a government to his rival Benny Gantz.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) LEADER OF CENTRIST BLUE-WHITE PARTY, BENNY GANTZ, SAYING: "I'm telling you that the time has come when the majority takes care of everybody and not minority who takes care of one person" That second election?

Likud and Gantz's centrist Blue and White Party in a virtual tie.

With no outcome after months of horse-trading, the jaded Israeli electorate was called back to the voting booths again.

But is it any different this time?

Well, yes.

Formal charges have now been filed against Netanyahu.

His trial begins two weeks after the election.

And, both previous elections were fought before details of U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan were released.

Published in January, it would grant U.S. recognition to Israel's settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu has pledged to annex the settlements after the election.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) SETTLER LEADER DANIELLA WEISS SAYING: "Rest assured that we will not stop claiming every single inch of this land when Netanyahu, please God, is being elected." Opinion polls show Likud and Blue and White virtually neck and neck again, though Netanyahu's party edged slightly ahead in the final stages of campaigning.

If Monday's election prolongs the the deadlock, a fourth election could be called - though some Israeli politicians regard this as unacceptable and it would mean further fiscal paralysis for the country under a caretaker government.

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