Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu formed a team to handle negotiations on the 2013 state budget Sunday in an effort to determine whether he can avoid the early election that would have to be held if the budget does not pass on time.
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Netanyahu sent the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, Harel Locker, and coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin to Yisrael Beytenu and Shas to attempt to draft a majority for the budget, which legally must pass in the cabinet and be submitted to the Knesset by the end of October.
Based on the results of the talks, Netanyahu will make a decision during the Succot holiday on whether to advance the election to January or February or pass the budget and hold the race on time in October 2013.
Sources close to the prime minister strongly denied contradictory reports in the anti-Netanyahu newspaper Yediot Aharonot that he had already decided to go to elections and in the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom newspaper that he expected to pass the budget and avoid an election.