Israel’s Netanyahu backs bill for direct election for PM

FILE - In this March 8, 2021 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, speaks to journalists after meeting the Israeli citizen, who is the 5 millionth person to be vaccinated in Israel, at a ceremony in Tel Aviv. As Israel heads to the polls next week for the fourth time in two years, Netanyahu has sought to capitalize on his new partnership with the United Arab Emirates in his desperate campaign to stay in power. (Miriam Alster/Pool via AP)

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing for a new law to allow the direct election of the nation’s leader as a way to break the country’s two-year political deadlock.

The proposal could guarantee Netanyahu another term as prime minister after he and his religious and nationalist allies failed to win a clear majority in March 23 elections.

Netanyahu has a May 4 deadline to build a governing coalition. After that, a group of small parties that oppose him hope to be able to cobble together an alternative government.

“There is a solution to the political stalemate, and the vast majority of the public supports it,” Netanyahu told lawmakers from his Likud party. He said a direct vote for prime minister would avoid “assembling absurd governments” and would allow Israeli citizens to choose a leader in “snap elections, without dissolving parliament.”

His opponents immediately decried the move, saying Israel does not need another election.

Netanyahu twice failed to build a governing coalition in Israel’s two 2019 elections. After the 2020 election, the longtime leader formed a unity government with his main rival in what they said was an emergency coalition to manage the coronavirus crisis. The partnership collapsed in December.