Exactly 50 days have passed since the April 9 Knesset elections and Benjamin Netanyahu's triumphant victory speech on stage in Tel Aviv, and the 42nd day of his efforts to form a government.
What initially appeared to be matter of signing a coalition deal with partners who he had picked in advance has transformed into a direct confrontation between the prime minister and Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman. This standoff for now appears to be leading to national elections for the second time in 2019 – something that has never happened before in Israel's history.
In a Facebook post published shortly before midnight, 24 hours before the Wednesday deadline, Liberman wrote: "Even I, who have been in Israeli politics for many years and thought I had seen everything, have been astounded over the past two days by the amount of pressure, paranoia and speculation I have been exposed to.
"I am not a vengeful or vindictive person; on the contrary, I worked for quite a few years side by side with Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu and despite all the arguments and disagreements between us, I respect and appreciate the man. I am also not against the ultra-Orthodox public. I am for the State of Israel, I am for a Jewish state, but I am against a State of Halacha (Jewish religious law)."
He continued: "I am not a salesman nor am I a blackmailer. I respect the decision of the voter, and with five Knesset seats we received in the elections, I have no right and I have no intention of demanding a rotation in the post of prime minister, not acting prime minister or even deputy prime minister."
He also criticized Kulanu chairman and outgoing finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, who announced Tuesday evening that his party would run as part of the Likud list if repeat elections were held.
"Yisrael Beytenu has no intention of joining the Likud, not as a subdivision, not as individuals, and not through assimilating into the ruling party," he said.
"Furthermore, we have no intention of giving up our principles and commitments to our voters," Liberman said. "The draft law is not a caprice, nor ego or revenge, but a cornerstone of our coherent system.
"The proposal to hand over all the (draft) targets and the expiry date of the law for the government to decide upon is really like putting makeup on a stuffed animals. Therefore, we are sticking with our proposal – second and third Knesset readings for the draft law in its original version, just as was for the first reading, and that the ultra-Orthodox MKs do not participate in the vote. This is the proposal and there is no alternative."
With Liberman remaining entrenched in his position and barring any last-minute developments, lawmakers will apparently vote Wednesday to dissolve the 21st Knesset, barely a month after it was sworn in.
The plenum session was to begin at noon with speeches by opposition and coalition MKs.
Later Wednesday, a vote was to take place on reservations over the bill, which were discussed Tuesday in a special committee to dissolve the Knesset, headed by Netanyahu ally and Likud MK Miki Zohar, who is the driving force behind the call for fresh elections.