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Israel Headed For 3rd Election In A Year


Israel is headed toward its third national election in less than a year. The country is politically divided, the prime minister is facing criminal charges, and compromise seems like it's out of the question. Reporter NAOMI Zeveloff has more from Tel Aviv.

NAOMI ZEVELOFF, BYLINE: At midnight on Wednesday, the clock ran out on a deadline to avert a third election after two inconclusive votes in April and September. On Thursday morning, many Israelis woke up frustrated with the news.

SARA DVIR: It's not good for the economy, it's not good for the trust of the people of Israel, and it's a waste of money.

ZEVELOFF: Sara Dvir, a retired paralegal, was walking her dog Jimmy in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv. She blames Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he struggles to stay in power while facing charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

DVIR: It's useless to have three elections in less than one year only because Netanyahu wants to remain on the - as a prime minister.

ZEVELOFF: After Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz both failed to form a government, Parliament had three weeks to nominate a lawmaker to take a swing at making a coalition. Gantz and Netanyahu continue to negotiate over a unity government, but neither they nor Parliament could come up with a solution. Gantz said he would partner with Netanyahu if the prime minister vowed not to ask for immunity, but Netanyahu made no such promise. Many believe he sees the election as a path to escape prosecution.


YOHANAN PLESNER: His goal in the election is to gain a majority for his future immunity request.

ZEVELOFF: That's Yohanan Plesner, president of the nonpartisan Israel Democracy Institute, in a briefing to journalists Wednesday. But inside Netanyahu's party, there are also signs of frustration with the prime minister, and one prominent member is seeking to replace him as party leader. Meanwhile, Gantz's party abandoned a plan to have him rotate as prime minister with his second in command. That move is widely seen to help Gantz as he tries once more to oust Netanyahu. The repeat elections have left Israel with a caretaker prime minister for the past year, paralyzing part of the government.

Again, Plesner.


PLESNER: That is unprecedented. The law and the practices have never been designed to deal with such a situation, and it will exact some real costs on the national interests and on Israeli citizens.

ZEVELOFF: Sara Dvir in Jaffa, one of those citizens, says she's fed up.

DVIR: Enough. Enough.

ZEVELOFF: The third election will be March 2.

For NPR News, I'm Naomi Zeveloff in Tel Aviv.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE AMERICAN DOLLAR'S "FEW WORDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Naomi Zeveloff