Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that he will decide in the
coming weeks when the next national election will take place.
He spoke as
coalition partners Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, Shas chairman Eli
Yishai and United Torah Judaism chairman Ya’acov Litzman expressed readiness to
force an early election over the “Tal Law” and exemptions from IDF service for
haredim (ultra- Orthodox).
Sources from the Likud ministers’ meeting on
Sunday morning said the prime minister explained that he has not made a decision
yet, and plans to discuss the possibility of an early election with the leaders
of coalition parties.
“This government has been successful for three
years because of its unity and continuity,” Netanyahu said. “As we move toward
the budgetary process [for 2013], we will not continue [as a coalition] if there
are blackmail proposals.”
The prime minister then reiterated that he
would not be blackmailed into undermining his government’s
Elections must be held a minimum of 94 days after they are
declared, and the leading party after an early vote would need time to form a
coalition and the 2013 state budget has to be passed by the beginning of next
year. Therefore, many have predicted an election will be held in September or
October, though no source close to Netanyahu confirmed the date.
Likud central committee meeting on Sunday night, where it was decided that the
Likud convention will be held next Sunday, opinions were split between the MKs
and ministers present as to when an early election would take place – right
before or soon after this fall’s High Holy Days. Only Welfare and Social
Services Minister Moshe Kahlon insisted that “the election will happen as
planned,” in October 2013.
Government Services Minister Michael Eitan
echoed Netanyahu’s concern about the budget, saying that an “election
atmosphere” will lead to “proposals pandering to the voter that will have a high
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, however, pointed out that
the Tal Law is the more immediate issue on the government’s agenda, as it
expires in August.
“The Tal Law has to do with all sectors in society,
and there are severe disagreements on the issue,” Rivlin said. “My estimation is
that the prime minister will prefer to make decisions after
According to Rivlin, calling an early election is not a
“political trick”; rather it is a way to answer questions that will affect all
Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu discussed the Tal Law, telling
leaders of protest movements Camp Sucker and Common Denominator that he would go
to elections if necessary, in order to pass a law that would include mandatory
national service for all.
Netanyahu said that new legislation – which
will replace the Tal Law, the legal framework that allows haredi yeshiva
students to indefinitely defer military service – will create a sea change in
the share of the military service burden.
Netanyahu told the protest
leaders that the Tal Law would be replaced “with a more equitable and just law,”
the Prime Minister’s Office said.
According to the office, the prime
minister said that changes will include the “expansion of frameworks alongside
budgetary increases,” but that the reforms need to be carried out without
pitting different sectors of the population against each other.
specified that new legislation would include national service for Israeli
“This is an historic opportunity to pass such a law, because the
majority in Knesset and among the public favors it,” Boaz Nol, one of the
leaders of the Common Denominator activism group, told The Jerusalem Post. “In
our opinion, anyone who votes against this proposal doesn’t belong in the
Liberman repeated his threat that his party’s 15 MKs would
leave the coalition if his alternative to the Tal Law, which will be brought to
the Knesset on May 9, does not pass.
“Yisrael Beytenu was a responsible
and faithful partner in the coalition,” he wrote on his Facebook wall. “Our
patience has ended; promises must be kept. We fulfilled our obligations to the
coalition; now the coalition must fulfill its obligations to us and to our
The foreign minister said that he did not want early elections,
but that he was not afraid of them, and would put his voters’ interests above
Defense Minister and Independence chairman Ehud
Barak took advantage of the flurry of political statements on the replacement of
the Tal Law to promote his bill, which also mandates obligatory national service
The proposal, whose details were announced by Independence
earlier this year, would provide financial incentives for IDF service and sets a
quota of 400 yeshiva students who would be able to continue study without
performing national service.
Meanwhile, haredi parties said they were
ready to fight the Tal Law’s replacements and go to elections.
to the press before Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Yishai said that his Shas party,
which has 11 MKs, was ready for elections and that they “have no problem if the
prime minister and foreign minister want to go to the polls.”
election campaign began more than a year ago on the backs of the haredim and it
is haunted by hatred of haredim,” Yishai said.
According to Yishai’s
spokesman, the party has yet to decide what it would like to see in legislation
to replace the Tal Law.
Litzman referred to politicians’ recent comments
on the Tal Law as “cheap populism,” but said nevertheless that his UTJ party,
which has five MKs, was well prepared for elections.
He also emphasized
that every coalition party signed the coalition agreement, which included the
arrangements made for yeshiva students to defer military service, “even those
who all of a sudden are demanding that haredim be drafted.”
the importance of Torah study to his party’s constituency, Litzman averred that
“representatives of the haredim will not abandon their [efforts to maintain the
formal arrangements whereby] anyone who wants to learn Torah will be able to do
The deputy health minister compared the situation to that of the
Migron outpost in Samaria, in which the government and the settlers reached a