Netanyahu Likely To Call Elections For August Or September


netanyahuIsraeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu did not flinch over the weekend at threats by Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman to break up the Knesset’s ruling coalition. “I will not tolerate extortion or hesitate to call [early] elections,” the prime minister said.

“Our great achievements over the past three years in the areas of the economy, security, education and infrastructure were due to the fact that the governing coalition was stable and everyone shared a common interest in our success,” Netanyahu told his associates over the weekend. “If I learn in the coming days that some coalition members are engaging in extortion, and beginning to make a series of unreasonable demands, I will not tolerate it and will not hesitate to call elections.”

Meanwhile, Army Radio is reporting that Netanyahu does, in fact, plan to hold early elections and plans to do so as soon as August or September 2012, before the Yomim Noraim, so as not to give his political rivals too much time to prepare.

On Sunday morning, Netanyahu met with leaders of the “Camp of Suckers” movement, which was established in Jerusalem and calls for all citizens of the country to perform military or national service. One of the leaders of the movement told Army Radio on Sunday that during their meeting, Netanyahu said that the country would indeed go to early elections.

“Netanyahu promised that he would try to pass a universal service law during the current Knesset session,” said one of the movement’s leaders, “and if not, that’s going to be his top campaign issue.”

Senior sources in Kadima also told Army Radio that the prime minister and his associates had expressed a willingness to advance the date of Knesset elections. Nevertheless, Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz denied that his staff and Netanyahu’s staff had been in contact over the issue.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has threatened to bring his “Recruitment for All” bill to a vote as early as next week. The proposed law, which Lieberman has billed as an alternative to the Tal Law stipulates that any Israeli citizen who does not serve in the military or national service will be deemed ineligible for welfare payments from the government. The bill threatens to destabilize the coalition, as chareidi will likely find the proposed law unacceptable.

Several senior Likud members hope to run for positions in the movement’s institutions, but if the Knesset holds early elections, a vote for Likud institutions will not be held. The Convention will allow Netanyahu to pass, with a simple majority, a series of amendments and safeguards to the party constitution.

Lieberman intends to bring his proposed law before the Knesset on May 9. Netanyahu, meanwhile, is formulating an alternative law, in consultation with charedi parties. He has asked Lieberman to wait until August, when the Tal Law expires, to introduce his own alternative legislation.

Nevertheless, say associates of the prime minister, Netanyahu has still not approached Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to draft a new law. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office have said that the prime minister would like the new law to stipulate military recruitment or national service for haredim and Arabs, but “without setting one community against the other, without demagoguery.”

All parties to the coalition must arrive at an agreement that will be acceptable to all, a senior source in the Prime Minister’s Office said on Saturday night.

Speaking on Channel 2’s “Meet the Press” television show, Lieberman said that by May 9, the country will know whether early elections will be held. “We did everything to preserve the coalition,” said Lieberman. “There is a coalition agreement on the subject of religion and state, which was supposed to be revisited within three months of the establishment of the coalition, but nothing happened.”

In effect, Lieberman was threatening early elections should his proposed law not pass. “Our obligation to the coalition is over,” Lieberman said. “We also have an obligation to our voters. The coalition was not willing to compromise with us, so we have decided to act decisively. On May 9, we will bring an alternative to the Tal Law to the Knesset for a vote. ‘Recruitment for all’ applies to haredim and Arabs as well.”

Netanyahu said in closed talks over the weekend that he is not interested in early elections and from his point of view the government can continue as is until the end of its four-year term, i.e.¬†October 2013. “There is no logic to Lieberman’s insistence and one must conclude that Lieberman has decided for his own reasons that he wants to disperse the Knesset,” said a senior Likud source who discussed the issue with Netanyahu.

In response, Yisrael Beitenu members said that “dialogue with the haredim will not help because they’re not willing to compromise.” MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said that “Lieberman’s announcement is a scandal, if [the bill] passes there will be no coalition.”

Senior Likud ministers believe that Netanyahu will have to announce early elections in the coming days. “There is no chance of passing the Tal Law, the budget, the evacuation of settlements, social protest legislation and all the other issues without holding elections first,” said one of the ministers. “When the Likud Convention opens, Netanyahu will have to announce an election date.”

The Kadima party will introduce its own alternative to the Tal Law, “Service for all,” on Sunday. This proposed law is expected to stipulate that each citizen, when he or she reaches the age of 18, must perform military, national or civil service.

{Israel Hayom/ Newscenter}