Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked his advisors to explore the possibility of holding August or September elections and is leaning towards this option, Ynet has learned.
Netanyahu has been reported as saying "If we're going to elections, then let's make it as soon as possible." He named two possible dates for Knesset elections – August 14 or September 4.
Senior officials in the coalition remarked, "There is no going back. The elections will be held in a few months." They added that there is little chance for an agreement to be reached on the Tal Law issue.
Senior Likud officials said that August elections were highly likely, based on recent talks between coalition elements. Others mentioned September as a possible date for the next national elections. This would mean that Likud primaries will take place in June.
Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz welcomed the idea of early elections. "The race will be between Kadima and the Likud, between myself and Netanyahu," Mofaz said in Petah Tikva.
Nevertheless, he rejected the notion of August or September elections. "It does not appear feasible. We'll deal with whatever happens, but this is not acceptable," he said. Other Kadima elements said that the idea of holding elections before the High Holidays "sounds unreasonable and impossible."
Netanyahu and wife Sara in Jerusalem's Ice Festival (Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO)
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told Ynet that as far as the Likud is concerned "any date is good for elections." He said he was confident that the party will win the next elections and form a government.
"This government is the only one that managed to save the people and the country from a terrible social and economic disaster, unlike all of Europe."
"Netanyahu has made it clear that we aim to finish this tenure but nevertheless there are things that must be done," Steinitz said.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin hinted that the elections could take place at the end of August or early in September, or at the very latest in the first week of November. "They will be held anywhere between 94 days from now and five months from now," he said.
Reuven Rivlin. Seeking early elections (Photo: Noan Moskowitz)
Meanwhile, Netanyahu met with ministers Moshe Kahlon and Yisrael Katz as well as Likud CEO Gadi Arieli. On Sunday morning, Netanyahu said he did not fear early elections and said that a decision on the matter would be made this or next week. During the Likud meeting, the prime minister said that early elections were possible.
He noted that elements in the opposition are trying to make it seem as if they want early elections.
"This government has achieved great things because of its cohesion. If it dissolves and budget demands are made, then there will be no point in compromising these achievements."
Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The statements prompted responses from the opposition parties. "Benjamin Netanyahu should have learned from experience: arrogance is a sure recipe for downfall," Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich said.
She added that the Labor party is ready for elections, on all levels. "The prime minister's sense of power will lead to his downfall. We call on all opposition factions - as well as Netanyahu himself - to join us in a bill to disband the Knesset and go to elections."
Elements in Kadima also offered a similar message claiming that the party is ready for elections and supports moving them up.
Kadima Faction chairwoman Dalia Itzik described the current government's tenure as a "footnote" in the State of Israel's history. "This is the most wasted and wasteful government in Israel. Its tenure is time lost," she said.
While there seemed to be a general political consensus on holding early elections, one party voiced opposition to the notion. Shas senior officials said that moving the elections up was meant to hurt Mofaz, who would not have sufficient time to prepare for a national campaign.
They estimated that Netanyahu will ultimately coordinate a date with his coalition partners and said "there will be no fighting on this issue."
Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu met with representatives of the "suckers' encampment" in his office in Jerusalem and was quoted as saying "If necessary we'll go to elections over this."
New conscription bill
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is planning to submit a conscription bill which will require haredim to perform some sort of national service for one year. Independence faction chairman MK Einat Wilf is set to submit a similar bill to the Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs.
Barak's bill aims to replace the Tal Law and make the IDF the sole authority on army enlistment. All those who are not recruited will be referred to national/civil service for one year.
According to the bill, the IDF will be able to choose who to recruit, and the defense minister will issue exemptions. The civil service head will be able to exempt no more than 10% of eligible applicants – 400 per year.
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