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Netanyahu (2nd from right) at a meeting of right-wing parties. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israel's political drama is entering yet another unprecedented stage. The Knesset, Israel's parliament, dissolved itself tonight, and the third election in under a year was set for March.

Why it matters: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing three corruption indictments, and the March election could be his last. Netanyahu and his top rival, Benny Gantz, both failed to form a government during 80 days of negotiations following September's vote.

Between the lines: Netanyahu's legal situation is the main factor keeping the country in political deadlock.

  • Netanyahu’s political power and public support have gradually weakened since April, after the first in this string of elections.
  • Around 55% of Israelis think Netanyahu should resign due to the indictments for fraud and breach of trust.

How we got here: During the negotiations, Netanyahu and Gantz attempted to form a national unity government in which the post of prime minister would rotate between them. It never came close to reality, mainly due to the deep mistrust on both sides.

  • The main obstacle was Netanyahu's insistence that he serve first as PM, which would strengthen his legal position.
  • Netanyahu's negotiators even suggested he serve for just six months — to bolster his legacy by annexing the Jordan Valley and signing a defense treaty with the Trump administration.

Behind the scenes: Gantz toyed with the idea of breaking a promise not to serve under Netanyahu with the indictments still looming to prevent a third election.

  • He was eventually convinced that Netanyahu couldn't be trusted to step down after six months.
  • One factor was Netanyahu’s refusal to meet Gantz’s demand that he not attempt to avoid a trial through parliamentary immunity.

Netanyahu and Gantz spent the last two weeks arguing over who is responsible for the deadlock.

  • Opinion polls show Israelis mostly take Gantz’s side. On average, around 40% of Israelis think Netanyahu is to blame, while around 5% blame Gantz.

Netanyahu is also under unprecedented pressure from within his Likud Party.

The latest: Two polls published this week show Gantz's center-left bloc gaining support and Netanyahu's right-wing bloc slipping.

  • On Tuesday night, Channel 13 published a dramatic poll that showed Gantz’s Blue and White party four seats ahead of Likud, with the center-left bloc receiving 60 seats and the right-wing bloc 52.
  • Support for another key party, led by former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, is stable at eight seats. Lieberman refuses to join either bloc and demands a unity government.

But, but, but: The elections are three months away and a lot can change.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Alabama's new congressional map rejected by federal judges

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Federal judges on Monday night blocked Alabama's newly drawn congressional map and ordered the Republican-led State Legislature to create a new one that includes two districts, rather than the planned one.

Why it matters: "Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the panel of three judges wrote in their ruling.

Australian Open organizers reverse "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirt ban

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai during the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo: Bai Xue/Xinhua via Getty Images

Australian Open organizers on Tuesday reversed a ban on t-shirts supporting Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai following widespread criticism.

Why it matters: Tennis Australia's announcement came less than 24 hours after the governing body defended the decision to ask fans last Friday to remove "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirts, citing ticket policy prohibiting political clothing, per the BBC.