JEDDAH: Disgraced former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surged into an opinion poll lead on Wednesday as Israel moved closer to its fifth election in less than four years.
The Knesset voted unanimously to dissolve itself in preliminary legislation that will be finalized next week, after which Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will take over from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as head of an interim government.
A new election became inevitable when Bennett said his fragile eight-party coalition was no longer tenable.
The vote is likely to take place in late autumn, when Netanyahu aims to break his own record and win a sixth term in office.
Four new surveys had his right-wing Likud party and its nationalist and ultra-religious parties leading the polls, but still short of a governing majority in the 120-seat parliament.
Their political rivals have vowed to prevent a return to power by Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption.
The governing coalition is already pushing legislation that will bar a person under criminal indictment from heading a government, though it is unlikely that they have enough votes to enact it.
“Netanyahu knows that if Israel remains a liberal democracy he will not be able to cancel his trial,” Lapid said on Wednesday.
“Our mission is to ensure these people don’t take power, and not to let them crush Israel’s democracy.”
Netanyahu said his trial was a “leftist witch-hunt” and Muslim Arab members of the governing coalition were “supporters of terrorism.”