Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political future entered a treacherous new period Wednesday after he narrowly failed to form a coalition government and Israel’s parliament voted to dissolve and call a new election.
The fresh vote will force Israel back into campaign mode just weeks after Netanyahu narrowly won a presidential mandate following a bruising contest with an upstart party. The scenario is unprecedented, with all previous Israeli parliamentary elections since the country’s founding in 1948 leading to the formation of a government.
“These are unnecessary and wasteful elections that no one needs and no one wants,” said a visibly angry Netanyahu after the vote. “The people,” Netanyahu said, already “had their say.”
Even if Netanyahu manages to win another shot in elections now scheduled for September, as polls suggest he might, the misstep is a damaging blow after he failed to bridge the gap between the secular and religious factions in his coalition.
As he faced defeat on Wednesday just one seat short of a majority, Mr. Netanyahu successfully pressed parliament, known as the Knesset, for a new vote to prevent Israeli President Reuven Rivlin from inviting another lawmaker to form the government.
In pressing a vote, Mr. Netanyahu’s supporters likely won’t be able to pass a law giving him limited immunity from prosecution before a pretrial hearing in October on potential charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. That could expose Mr. Netanyahu to a corruption trial if he becomes prime minister again.