With elections in Israel looming, Lapidet is set to become the new prime minister

JERUSALEM, June 20 (Reuters) – Israeli lawmakers are set to vote to dissolve parliament, paving the way for the country’s fifth election in three years, following weeks of pressure on Prime Minister Naphtali Bennett’s weak ruling coalition.

Bennett will step down as Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, his partner in the opposition’s impossible coalition that ended the 12 – year rule of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 12 months ago.

Lapidge, a former journalist who leads the largest party in the coalition, will serve as caretaker prime minister until new elections are held.

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An official said a referendum would be held in parliament next week, after which Lapid would become prime minister.

“I think the government has done a very good job in the last year. It is a disgrace that the country is being dragged into the election,” said Defense Minister Penny Kants, leader of a centrist party in the coalition.

But we will act as an interim government as much as possible, ”he said.

The move comes just weeks ahead of a planned visit by US President Joe Biden, whom the government hopes will help boost regional security ties against Israel’s long-time adversary Iran.

The future of the eight-party coalition, which includes the far-right, liberal and Arab parties, was increasingly threatened as a handful of members walked out without a clear majority in parliament.

Bennett, a former Special Forces commando and technical millionaire who entered national politics in 2013 as pressure on the government increased in recent days, said his government had boosted economic growth, reduced unemployment and eliminated deficits for the first time in 14 years.

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But he could not keep the coalition together and decided to step aside before Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party tabled its own proposal to dissolve parliament.

Netanyahu, who has vowed to return despite facing a corruption probe, last week mocked former close aide Bennett, saying his government was holding “one of the longest funerals in history.”

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Ari Rabinovich Report; Editing by Alex Richardson and Filippa Fletcher

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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