Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will initiate an election that is expected to
be held between mid-January and mid-February if, as expected, agreements cannot
be reached with Shas and other coalition partners that would enable the passage
of the 2013 state budget, Netanyahu said in closed conversations Tuesday
Netanyahu met with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) and
Shas leader Eli Yishai on Tuesday and will continue to hold consultations until
the Knesset’s winter session begins on October 15, before making a final
decision to give up on the budget and initiate an election.
the Prime Minister’s Office said that if it were possible to pass a
“responsible” budget, he would do so. But if that is not feasible, they quoted
Netanyahu as saying that early elections would be called.
minister said it was “important for government stability” that he complete four
years in office. He was elected on February 10, 2009. By law, elections must be
held on Tuesdays and February 12 is the first Tuesday after that date, so
sources close to Netanyahu received the impression that it was the prime
minister’s preferred election date.
Sources in the coalition reported
that serious talks on the budget have not been held, even though it must legally
be submitted to the Knesset by November 1.
The chances of passing the
budget diminished Tuesday as arguments were revealed between Netanyahu and his
Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Independence) recently
asked Netanyahu for a guarantee that he would be in his next government and when
the prime minister refused to make such a commitment, Barak vowed to take
revenge by opposing the budget.
Netanyahu told Steinitz that on a recent
trip to the US, Barak exacerbated tensions between Netanyahu and US President
Barack Obama’s administration in order to be seen by the US as the savior of the
Yishai, for his part, blamed the Treasury for not working
to prevent an election.
Denying reports that Shas was the main obstacle
to passing the budget, Yishai said he received the impression that Netanyahu had
already decided to initiate elections.
In a sign that elections are near,
thousands of Likud activists attended a Succot toast outside the home of
Transportation Minister Israel Katz in Moshav Kfar Ahim.
In his speech at
the event, Katz attacked the Likud’s rivals, including opposition leader Shaul
Mofaz and Mofaz’s predecessors as head of Kadima, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said at the event that if Netanyahu
so chose, he could initiate an election in an hour when the Knesset reconvenes.
But Rivlin said he thought Netanyahu would prefer to wait a week or two to
complete the passage of key legislation.
At a Succot toast at his home in
Kochav Yair, Mofaz said Kadima was ready for elections at any time. He attacked
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich and said he was the only candidate fit to replace
Yacimovich, meanwhile, called upon Netanyahu to lift the fog
and announce elections immediately.
“Setting a date will eliminate
uncertainty that harms the economy,” she said.
“Israel needs elections in
order to choose between alternatives and reset the national agenda.”
Keinon and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.