Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may consider postponing next Sunday’s Likud primary, and possibly even the January 22 general election, if Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip does not end soon, Likud sources said on Saturday night.
Netanyahu formed a task force of three Likud officials to determine whether the party’s Knesset candidates list could be chosen in the midst of the operation. Likud attorney Avi Halevy, party campaign manager Tzahi Braverman and Netanyahu’s political adviser Gabi Kadosh were tasked with determining whether the primary could be delayed until just ahead of the December 6 deadline for parties to submit their lists of candidates to the Central Elections Committee.
“If Pillar of Defense goes on, it will be impossible to carry out the primaries in the largest parties,” Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said at a cultural event in Ness Ziona. “The primaries would have to be postponed in order to prevent harm from coming to the people who come out to vote.”
Daniel Tauber, who is running for a young spot on the Likud list, became the first candidate to request a delay in the primary on Friday morning.
"Members of Knesset and Ministers should not have to spend time campaigning when they should be dealing with urgent security matters and working to unify the country instead of reaching out to only Likud members," Tauber wrote. "Campaigns should not be brought to fever pitch as our soldiers are risking their lives fighting our enemies and residents of the South are forced to hide in fear."
Likud MK Carmel Shama- Hacohen, who is expected to have a tough time winning a realistic slot in the primary, wrote to Netanyahu, urging him to postpone the vote in the Likud, saying that it would be improper to hold the race when so many party members have been called for reserve service.
Party officials said Netanyahu has taken into account that he could easily obtain Knesset approval for delaying the general election, which could legally be held any time until October 22, 2013. But the prime minister’s associates have warned him that postponing the race would show weakness.
“This is not the Yom Kippur War,” a Netanyahu associate said, noting that the 1973 war resulted in the postponement of a general election.
The Labor Party is expected to follow the Likud’s lead regarding whether its own party primary, now scheduled for November 29, should be postponed. The party released a statement on Saturday, boasting of the number of party officials who had been drafted, including Labor’s campaign manager Itai Ben-Horin and Knesset candidates Omer Bar-Lev and Itzik Shmuly.
Meanwhile, former Kadima leaders Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni remained mum over the weekend about their political future. Livni warned that Israel needs an exit strategy from the Gaza Strip before international pressure escalates.
Sources close to Olmert downplayed the results of a Smith Research poll published in The Jerusalem Post on Friday, which indicated that he is unwanted back in politics, even by people who intend to vote Kadima. The sources said Olmert has polls with completely different results.
Speaking at the Ness Ziona event where Erdan spoke, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said the government is acting correctly, and a “disproportionate” response on Israel’s part is essential because it cannot allow Hamas to “dictate the height of the flames” in this conflict.
“The fact that the Hamas has expanded its range of rocket fire to include the Center of the country is not crossing a red line. Firing on the residents of southern Israel in the first place is in and of itself crossing a red line,” he said.
At this point, “our goal is to restore the calm, while at the same time conducting peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority,” Lapid said.
He also said he was against delaying the election.