With many predicting Benjamin Netanyahu would call an early general election one year before he is obliged to do so by law, he has made his strongest suggestion yet that this will indeed be the case. The actual date is still uncertain, but may well be 4 September.
In a keynote speech to the Likud Conference on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:
‘I will not lend a hand to an election campaign of a year and a half that would destabilize the government. I prefer short elections of four months that could quickly bring back the stability to the political system.’
Netenyahu is already on the campaign trail. He reminded Likud party workers at the Conference of his achievements since he has been in office. Claims of boosted security, concentration of world attention on Iran’s nuclear programme, and a strengthened economy were relayed to them.
One of the reasons why this election may take place a year earlier than legally required is to consolidate his position at the head of a coalition which until recently has been seen as one Israel’s most stable in years. However there has been a breakdown of relations between Likud and their junior coalition partner, the National Israel Beiteinu Party which is leading the call for reversal of the exemption of Ultra-religious Jews who at present avoid military service.
An early election would also likely produce a stable government with a mandate in place for when the American elections have been completed in November. If President Barak Obama wins the election and four more years in the White House, many observers feel that the Israeli – Palestinian question will be high on his agenda. The two leaders have had serious disagreements on the path forward for Israeli – Palestinian relations.
However there is uncertainty about the likely outcome. While some polls suggest that Netanyahu’s Likud party may win up to 25% of the 120 Knesset seats available, there is the question of who would be his likely coalition partners and whether they would want to improve relations with or take a more hard-line stance against Palestine and the Palestinians.