Israel’s parliament has voted to dissolve itself, sparking the country’s fifth election in less than four years.
Former talk show host Yair Lapid, currently foreign minister, will take control of the Knesset from Naftali Bennett – Israel’s shortest-serving prime minister – from just after midnight on Friday.
The government, a coalition of ideologically diverse parties including an Arab faction, collapsed just over a year after it was formed in a historic move that unseated long-term leader Benjamin Netanyahu from power after 12 years.
The motion to dissolve parliament passed with 92 in favour and none opposed, after days of disputes over a new election date.
Israel will choose its new leader when the vote is held on 1 November, it has now been decided.
Mr Lapid, 58, will become the 14th person to hold office in Jerusalem until a new leader is officially announced.
He was an architect of the outgoing coalition government – a collective of eight parties across the political spectrum which tried but failed to find common ground following a prolonged period of gridlock.
Four deadlocked elections in the past three years have been described as referendums on Mr Netanyahu’s fitness to serve while facing corruption charges.
But the collapse of the Israeli government could see a possible return to power for the former leader, who remains a significant figure in Israeli politics.
Mr Netanyahu, 72, who is accused of accepting bribes, fraud, and breach of trust, has denied any wrongdoing.
Mr Lapid, who leads a centre-left party, is expected to campaign as caretaker PM to keep the job as the main alternative to Mr Netanyahu.
His popularity is expected to be bolstered when US President Joe Biden visits Israel next week.
However, polls conducted by Israel media show Mr Netanyahu and his allies are gaining momentum – but it is unclear whether they would win enough votes to form a 61-seat majority in the 120-member Knesset.
But if no party succeeds in achieving a majority, the country will face a fresh election.
Mr Bennett, 50, has ruled himself out of the race, revealing how he would be taking a hiatus from politics.
He tweeted a picture of himself to his 502,000 followers on Thursday morning, along with a caption in Hebrew translating as “thanks”, together with a heart and Israeli flag emoji.
Under his leadership, the government failed to renew an emergency law preserving the special legal status of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.
The legislation is considered essential for many Israelis.
Since he was ousted last year, Mr Netanyahu has spent his time as opposition leader actively undermining the coalition and encouraging opposition parties to vote against government bills, culminating in the defeat of the West Bank legislation.
Addressing parliament, the former Israeli PM said: “They promised change, they spoke about healing, they tried an experiment, and the experiment failed.
“We are the only alternative: a strong, stable, responsible nationalist government.”
Leader of the Islamist Ra’am faction, Mansour Abbas, joined the coalition to secure better funding for Israel’s Arab minority – which accounts for 20% of the population.
Israel’s Arab citizens battle widespread discrimination due to their close ties with and support for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
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