Legislative elections for the 23rd Knesset will be held in Israel on Monday, 2 March 2020. According to the relevant Basic Law, the elections were required to be held no later than the third Tuesday of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan four years after the previous election on 17 September 2019, making the latest possible date 31 October 2023.
However, on 11 December 2019, due to the continued failure by all parties to form the country’s next government, early elections were called, the third within a year after the September and April 2019 elections. Israeli commentators have expressed fear that the political paralysis is severely weakening public trust in an already highly-polarized political system.
The extended period of political deadlock that led up to the election was the result of close races in April and September 2019 that left both incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition favorite Benny Gantz unable to muster a 61-seat governing majority, in coalition with their respective blocs of smaller, ideologically-allied parties.
As a result, Netanyahu and Gantz agreed in principle that the only solution was a national unity government between Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White parties. However, substantial disagreements over the terms of such a government prevented one from being formed, as Netanyahu demanded the inclusion of his allied right-wing, religious parties, and Gantz refused to cooperate with a Netanyahu-led Likud as long as he was under indictment for alleged bribery and fraud.
Orly Adas, director of the Central Elections Committee, cautioned that she lacked the necessary funding and staff to conduct a third election, and President Reuven Rivlin stressed his desire to avoid calling one, repeatedly expressing his dismay at the failure to form a unity government. Nevertheless, as required by the Basic Law, he initiated on 21 November 2019 on a 21-day period in which any member of the Knesset (MK) who received the support of 60 of their fellow lawmakers was allowed to try to form a government. After no MKs succeeded at this task by 11 December, Rivlin was forced to call the new election.
Sources and further reading:
Israel’s Groundhog Day: Hold Elections. Call Another Vote. Repeat
Analysis Israel Election: From a Netanyahu Victory to Another Stalemate — Five Scenarios
Why Israel’s Political System Is Broken and How It Can Be Fixed