The elections for the 19th Knesset are to be held early in 2013, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday.
The leader said that the security and economic situations in Israel require the vote to be moved up, and warned that without a responsible budget for next year, the state could find itself in an economic crisis like the one plaguing Europe.
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Netanyahu stressed that a shorter campaign season is preferable for the Jewish state's security and economy.
"A shorter election campaign season is preferable over a longer season that could seriously hurt the State of Israel," he said. "After four years, we are moving towards elections."
PM at Tuesday's press conference (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Early in his speech the prime minister mentioned the escalation in the rocket fire on southern Israeli communities, but quickly assumed the tone of a campaigning politician, listing his government's achievements.
"First of all, we bolstered our security at a time when dangerous turmoil is taking place around us," he said. "Secondly, we strengthened the economy while dealing with a different kind of turmoil – an ongoing global financial crisis that has caused economies in Europe to collapse.
"We have invested great resources in empowering the IDF with the Iron Dome and the security fence, and we have maintained responsible financial policies. We have generated 330,000 jobs, a record number. Meanwhile, other countries have been making massive cuts."
'Budget couldn't be passed'
Netanyahu said that he has reached the conclusion that a responsible state budget cannot be passed.
"An election year is approaching, and in such years it is difficult for parties to put the national interest ahead of the party's interest," he said. "The consequence could… massively increase the deficit, which can impair our economy… I won't let that happen here."
The leader further stated that it is his duty as the prime minister to "put the national interest above all," and asserted that holding the elections as soon as possible is in Israel's best interest.
Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon said Tuesday that the legislation aiming to dissolve the Knesset has to be passed anew. The announcement means that the efforts to pass such a bill in May have now been scrapped.
Previous readings aiming to move up the elections have been held in May but the process was put on hold after Netanyahu and Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz announced the formation of a unity government. The agreement lasted only 55 days after which Mofaz disengaged from the government, primarily due to the failure to devise a solution to the haredi army recruitment issue.
Knesset Chairman Reuven Rivlin, who is in Moscow on an official visit, said on Tuesday evening that he will make efforts to disperse the parliament for a campaign recess as soon as possible after the winter session begins on October 15.
"The prime minister did well in deciding to dissolve the Knesset," he said. "Decisions on national matters are at stake, and the current Knesset is incapable of making them."
Rivlin has told Netanyahu that he won't allow for "populist and irresponsible" legislation ahead of the parliament's dissolution, and that he does not see a reason why the lawmakers cannot convene during the campaign season to address urgent matters. He is set to return from Russia on Sunday.
Earlier Tuesday, Netanyahu consulted with top Likud ministers over the decision. One minister said that few attempts have been made to pass the budget, and "that no one really wanted to fight over it."
Over the past 40 years, the Knesset has managed to complete a full tenure only once – Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir's grand coalition in the years 1984-1988. All other Knessets have been dismissed before their time.
Yachimovich with Yair Lapid (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich suggested that the elections should be held on January 29. She said that it is the earliest date possible that will also allow for proper partisan preparation. "The country has actually been in election mode for over six months," Yachimovich said, "which is unhealthy and should be stopped as soon as possible."
She added that "The public must remember that Netanyhau is going to election so he could pass a harsh budget following election – a budget that may harm the lives of almost every citizen in the country, except the richest. The public must choose one of two approaches – Netanyahu's and mine. The election will determine whether we will have a violent jungle economy or a fair economy and social justice. The Labor party is ready for election, both ideologically and strategically."
Kadima to cancel primaries?
Ahead of the elections, sources in Kadima postulate that Mofaz is soon to announce the cancelation of the primaries for the party's Knesset ticket. Most Kadima MKs are said to have expressed support for the move.
Sources in the faction say that Mofaz is seeking to eliminate competition among Kadima members for top spots on the party's list. If the primaries are indeed cancelled, a committee headed by the party chairman will put the ticket together.
Members of Kadima said earlier that the prime minister's announcement means the end of the Netanyahu era. MK Yoel Hasson said that the decision is "a sign that Netanyahu's rulership is coming to an end."
"The people want change, the State of Israel needs change, and my intention is to make every effort to bring this change about," he added. "The public has realized that Bibi is the same old Bibi, and this Bibi needs to be replaced."
Former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni addressed the announcement as well, in a post on her Facebook page. She charged that Netanyahu's government has "made Israel isolated and closed off," and said that the country should choose a new path. She did not say whether she has any plans to contend in the elections.
Livni (Archive photo: Ido Erez)
Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On responded to Tuesday's development by calling on Netanyahu to step down.
"We hope that Netanyahu has finally decided to liberate the citizens of Israel from his mastery after four terrible years for Israel," she said. "The prime minister is moving the elections up in order to avoid handing the public the bill for dedicating all of the state's resources to the settlers, haredim and the rich under the guise of a budget."
MK Yariv Levin (Likud), on the other hand, said that the prime minister's announcement indicates the conclusion of "the forced partnership with Ehud Barak."
"Israel needs a government free of Barak and Yachimovich, and I believe that the public will give us the mandate to put together such a government," he said.
Moran Azulay contributed to the report
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