Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not intend to indicate the date of the
next general election when he said in his speech to the UN General Assembly on
Thursday that the world’s red line for preventing Iran’s nuclearization must be
next spring, sources close to Netanyahu said on Sunday.
speech, the main factor in Netanyahu’s decision was thought to be whether he
could pass the 2013 state budget, which must pass in the cabinet and be
submitted to the Knesset by November 1.
Netanyahu’s associates had said
that if he could obtain enough support from coalition partners, he would pass
the budget and elections could take place as scheduled in October 2013. But if
he saw he could not pass the budget, he could initiate an election when the
Knesset returns from its recess on October 15 that could be held as early as
But the speech raised speculation that the prime minister would
either initiate an election as soon as possible in order to exploit his
advantage over his political rivals on the Iran threat, or use the issue to persuade coalition
partners that they had to compromise on the budget to maintain political
stability ahead of a possible war.
“By next spring, at most by next
summer at current [uranium] enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium
enrichment and move on to the final stage,” Netanyahu raised speculation by
saying in the speech. “From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks,
before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”
interview with Channel 2, the prime minister denied any connection between the
Iran deadline and the political timetable in Israel. Sources close to Netanyahu
advised not to read too much into the speech when it came to
“It is clear to everyone that it is better for the prime
minister that the election would focus on Iran and not the economy,” a source
close to Netanyahu said. “But he should not and will not use the Iran issue to
Netanyahu will convene his advisers during the
intermediate days of Succot and make a decision on the election date by next
He is expected to announce his decision at a Likud faction meeting
on October 15 or possibly the day before.
On October 14, a key meeting
will be held on the defense budget. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz’s outgoing
chief of staff David Sharan said that if Defense Minister Ehud Barak would not
allow defense cuts, the budget could not pass. Barak said in an interview with
Israel HaYom that it should be obvious to anyone following regional developments
that defense cuts at such a sensitive time would be unwise.
Yisrael Beytenu and Shas have hinted recently that they would be willing to
compromise on the budget, the Likud’s smallest coalition partner, Habayit
Hayehudi with three MKs, flexed its muscles and indicated that its support could
not be taken for granted.
Leadership candidate MK Zevulun Orlev said that
if the new budget did not significantly cut parental fees in religious
education, especially in high schools, he would not vote for the budget in the
Knesset Finance Committee and he would recommend that his colleagues in the
faction did the same in the Knesset plenum.
“We are not in anyone’s
pocket,” Orlev said. “Our support for any budget is not automatic. We are a
socioeconomic party and we will insist that the budget ease the socioeconomic
gaps, diminish poverty and lower the cost of living for the middle class.”