Israel’s parliament yesterday began rushing through a bill to call a third general election within a year, as talks between embattled premier Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival broke down ahead of a midnight deadline.
A deal to avert a new election was scheduled to be reached before 11:59 pm (2159 GMT).
But Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz, both of whom have failed to build a governing majority in the Knesset, or parliament, since a deadlocked vote in September, have spent days trading blame for the failing coalition talks.
Yesterday morning, the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2.
It must face three more plenary readings and votes during the day before passing into law.
A new election would be another challenge for Netanyahu -- Israel’s longest serving premier, now governing in a caretaker capacity -- at a time when he must fend off a leadership vote in his right-wing Likud party.
Netanyahu and Gantz, a former armed forces chief who heads the centrist Blue and White party, had been discussing a potential unity government, but disagreed on who should lead it.
Following the corruption charges, Gantz called on Netanyahu to step down and encouraged defections among his allies, but they largely stood by the 70-year-old.
Gantz has demanded Netanyahu publicly declare he would not seek parliamentary immunity as a precondition to further talks.