Will Israelis head to the polls in 2012? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
told his associates Saturday that he does not fear the prospect of early elections, further reinforcing assessments that Israelis will be heading to the polls this year.
"I won't remain in a situation where I face extortion by coalition partners," Netanyahu reportedly told the associates in a closed-door session. "I'm not afraid of elections."
Meanwhile, senior coalition members also claimed that the elections will be brought forward to 2012.
"Netanyahu has already decided that the elections will be held this year," a senior Shas
party official told Ynet. "The real reason for it is the budget; there is no way to pass it."
The Shas member said expected budget cuts are the real reason for dismantling Israel's governing coalition, rather than talk about drafting ultra-Orthodox Israelis into the military.
Members of another coalition faction, United Torah Judaism,
are also preparing for early elections. The party's chairman, Knesset Member Yaakov Litzman, said he doesn't know when elections will be held, but added that "we are preparing for every possibility."
A senior government minister also estimated that elections are in the cards, saying that "even though Netanyahu has not yet announces his position, and even though he seemingly has not decided it, we see the dynamics of elections taking shape."
Kobi Nachshoni contributed to the story