This time, it really happened. The Knesset dissolved itself late Monday night, ahead of elections on January 22, 2013.
The final reading of the bill to dissolve the Knesset passed with 100 in favor and none opposed, over five months after it passed a nearly identical bill in its first reading before opposition leader Shaul Mofaz (Likud) joined the coalition at 2 a.m.
Although the final vote on the bill had not taken place by late Monday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reassured the public at a faction meeting: “This time it’s final. We are going to elections.”
The Knesset approved the final reading for legislation dissolving itself in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
On Monday afternoon, the Knesset held a celebratory opening meeting for the 18th Knesset’s fifth winter session, as mandated by law.
Netanyahu asked the public to re-elect him in his speech, listing his government’s achievements, including encouraging economic growth, building the southern border fence and establishing a cyber-defense force.
The prime minister also included a dig at former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who, according to a Jerusalem Post/Smith Research poll, would have a chance at winning the election should he return to politics.
“We didn’t initiate any unnecessary wars. There were no wars at all in my seven years as prime minister,” Netanyahu said. “The reason there were no wars is because we showed strength.”
The prime minister complimented his former bitter rival MK Amir Peretz (Labor), who ran against Netanyahu’s current strongest challenger Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich in the party leadership race. First, Netanyahu commended Peretz for initiating the Iron Dome missile defense system, and soon after, he said his government enacted a policy that used to be Peretz’s campaign slogan – minimum wage of over $1000 per month.
Netanyahu also delineated the condition to join his coalition, should he be reelected, which is support for his planning and construction reform.
“In the current term, my coalition partners and the opposition prevented the reform, which would have helped solve the housing crisis, from passing,” he stated.
At the beginning of the winter session’s opening meeting, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin pointed out that in the last decade, “a prime minister fell victim to direct election, a prime minister fell into a coma, and a prime minister fell because he was suspected of crimes.”
He said that unlike in past elections, the current government lasted four years and initiated a legitimate election.
Based on what happened in the past, Rivlin added, “it is no wonder that the public has lost faith in reasons for elections.”
According to Rivlin, the upcoming election is especially important because it is issues-based, specifically focusing on the economy.
President Shimon Peres said the election is a time to set goals for the future. He called for campaigns to be respectful and be a “brainstorm” for Israel’s future, rather than “arguing for the sake of arguing.”