Also read recent analysis by Kevin Huggard and Natan Sachs about Israel's current political situation.
Israelis have voted in two Knesset elections in 2019, and a third, in early 2020, remains a distinct possibility. Meanwhile, the ongoing legal drama surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has only added to this convoluted progression of events. No one knows for certain when Israel will have a new government, or when (or if) Netanyahu will be indicted in one or more of his three criminal cases, but we do have a rough idea of the path that will lead toward answers to those questions. Below, we lay out the key dates for understanding this tumultuous moment in Israel politics.
Israeli Elections and Government Formation
- Sept 17
- Elections – Israelis go to the polls.
Israelis voted in the second Knesset elections of the year after the 21st Knesset dissolved itself in May. Early returns showed no clear winner, but indicated that Netanyahu would face a difficult path in forming a government.
- Sept 25
- Government formation – Netanyahu gets the first shot.
President Reuvin Rivlin tasked Netanyahu with forming a government after the sitting prime minister received 55 recommendations for the post, one more than his chief rival, Benny Gantz.
- Oct 2
- Legal proceedings – Netanyahu’s pre-trial hearing begins.
At a closed-door hearing, Netanyahu’s lawyers argued to the Justice Ministry that charges should be dropped in his bribery, fraud, and breach of trust cases.
- Oct 21
- Government formation – Netanyahu returns his mandate.
Netanyahu, unable to form a government during his allotted 28 days, returned the mandate to Rivlin.
- Oct 23
- Government formation – Gantz gets his chance.
Rivlin tasked Blue and White Party Leader Benny Gantz with a mandate for forming a government.
- Nov 20
- Government formation – Gantz’s deadline passes; open period begins.
Gantz has 28 days to form a government, though he could return the mandate earlier. Should he fail, a 21-day period will follow in which any member of Knesset (MK) can attempt to garner support of a majority of MKs to receive a new mandate.
- Dec 11 (or before)
- Government formation – The open period for government formation ends.
In these 21 days, anyone — including Gantz or Netanyahu — can attempt to garner support of 61 MKs to receive a mandate to form a coalition. At this point, if no one has succeeded, new elections will follow.
- Legal proceedings – Indictment decision expected.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to announce his decision on a potential indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases by mid-December, before the retirement of State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, a central figure in these investigations. An earlier decision is possible, and may affect the outcome of government formation.
- Dec 25 (or before)
- Government formation – Final deadline for government formation.
Should the Knesset nominate a candidate before the December 11 deadline, that person would have 14 days to then form a government.
- February or March
- Elections – Israelis go to the polls again?
Should government formation fail at any stage, new elections will follow for the 23rd Knesset in early 2020.
- March 31
- Budget – The Knesset faces a deadline for passing a budget.
Should someone manage to form a government before December 11, the Knesset would need to pass a budget by this date or be automatically dispersed.