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Lapid to become acting prime minister as Israel heads to early elections

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his coalition partner Foreign Minister Yair Lapid have decided to hold a vote on dissolving the Knesset next week and call for an early election, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Monday.

Why it matters: The collapse of the government comes less than a month before President Biden’s visit to Israel, which is planned for July 13. According to the rotation agreement between Bennett and Lapid, once the Knesset is dissolved and an election is called, Lapid will become the acting prime minister.

Lapid will also continue as foreign minister, while Bennett will become the alternate prime minister and will hold the Iran file in the interim government.

Between the lines: The collapse of the government is further proof that the political crisis that has engulfed Israel since 2019 is still very much alive.

This will be the fifth election in Israel within four years.

Driving the news: Bennett and Lapid in recent weeks have tried to renew a law regulating Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Nir Orbach, a member of Bennett’s party, announced last week he was leaving the coalition because the law hasn’t been renewed.Bennett pressed Orbach, a right-wing lawmaker and a close confidant, to stay in the coalition but failed to convince him. The last meeting between the two exploded with Orbach giving Bennett an ultimatum that if the “settlements law” doesn’t pass within a week, he will vote with the opposition in calling an election.

Behind the scenes: According to two senior sources in the coalition, Bennett was the one who initiated the move after realizing that he couldn’t pass the law and couldn’t convince Orbach to continue supporting the coalition.

The sources said Bennett and Lapid decided to cut their losses and initiate the move rather than be dragged into it and lose more political support in the process.

What’s next: Elections are likely to take place at the end of October after the Jewish High Holidays.

Lapid, as acting prime minister, will be the one who welcomes Biden at the airport when he arrives next month. U.S. ambassador to Israel Tom Nides told Axios that “President Biden’s trip to Israel will happen as planned.”