Election rumors and no-confidence votes were pushed aside on Monday, as the
opening of the Knesset’s summer session was overshadowed by the death of Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s father, Benzion Netanyahu.
seemed like a done deal, as leaders of the Knesset’s major factions said they
are prepared to hit the campaign trail. Currently, the election date is set for
October 22, 2013.
At a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting, Foreign Minister
Avigdor Liberman opened with condolences to Netanyahu before joking about
“elections, the topic that does not interest anyone.”
“The interest of
the state requires an election as soon as possible,” Liberman
said. “Anyone who knows about government is aware that during an election
campaign everything is in the freezer.”
Although the law requires a
three-month period between when elections are announced and held, the foreign
minister said Yisrael Beytenu would be ready even if the vote takes place next
week, and will be the second-largest party in the Knesset.
that he would prefer to be in a coalition with both Likud and Kadima in the next
government, so that there can be a breakthrough in changing the system of
government and issues of religion and state.
The foreign minister
reiterated that his party’s alternative to the “Tal Law” – which exempts haredi
yeshiva students from army service – must pass, as part of coalition agreements,
and Yisrael Beytenu will continue to work despite election rumors.
will make all of our promises to the voter come true, including making everyone
enlist, even as the scent of elections spreads in the air,” he
Another contributing factor to the “scent of elections” was an
announcement by Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah
Judaism) that NIS 400 million have been set aside as the elections
Gafni did not say whether he favors or opposes early elections,
but emphasized that his party would be active and continue to pass reforms until
the polls open.
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz recalled meeting with Benzion
Netanyahu after his son, Yonatan, was killed during a successful IDF operation
to free hostages in Uganda in 1976. Mofaz served under Yoni Netanyahu when he
was commander of Sayeret Matkal (General Staff Reconnaissance Unit), and the
elder Netanyahu invited Mofaz to talk about Yoni’s military
“Benzion Netanyahu was a sensitive man who loved the people of
Israel and the State of Israel,” Mofaz said in a Kadima faction
“We can’t avoid the topic of elections,” the Kadima leader
continued, saying his party will be ready for elections “any day, any hour, any
year,” but in his opinion, October 16 is the ideal, as it is after the High Holy
Days and Succot.
“No one should get too excited by polls – we are the
only alternative to the Netanyahu government,” he said. “We will stand strong
Mofaz also emphasized Kadima’s replacement for the Tal
Law, which he said will reverse injustices and bring equality in the burden.
Shas also opened its faction meeting with
condolences to the Netanyahu family, before moving on to elections.
are more ready than anyone else. We’re active, we work fast and our staff is
already campaigning,” Interior Minister Eli Yishai said.
Yishai, “it is clear that these elections will be full of incitement and hatred
towards the Jewish tradition. Parties are competing over who can erase more
Shas will fight in the name of God to protect Judaism,
When asked what his party would like to see in the
legislation that replaces the Tal Law, which expires in August, the interior
minister said that thousands of haredim are on waiting lists to join
ultra-orthodox groups in the IDF, like the Nahal Haredi, and that those who did
serve are not called to reserves.
“This is hypocrisy, and an attempt to
incite and slander,” Yishai said.
Also on Monday, Defense Minister Ehud
Barak said his alternative to the Tal Law will surely pass, allowing the IDF to
decide who it wants from every population group in Israel.
“Our bill is
fair, honest and simple,” he stated. “It will bring equality.”
expressed confidence that his party will pass the elections threshold in
upcoming elections, and said he does not think it matters whether the elections
are in August, September or October.
“Independence’s ministers and MKs
deserve the public’s confidence,” Barak said. “People will vote for
In addition, the defense minister called rumors that he will get a
spot on the Likud’s list for the next elections “baseless,” and jokingly
threatened to publicly praise the Likud MKs and ministers “until their bitter
“We moved the process of early elections – the train left the
station because of our bill [to dissolve the Knesset],” Labor leader Shelly
Yacimovich said at her faction’s meeting.
Yacimovich explained that her
party is not hiding the fact that it prefers that elections be held as early as
possible, because a long election season is bad for the country, and also
because Labor is polling well.
The Labor leader also announced that her
party withdrew its no-confidence vote out of respect for the Netanyahu family,
and postponed its bill to dissolve the Knesset.
All other opposition
parties followed suit, and Monday’s plenum meeting lasted only 13 minutes, with
only two items on the agenda.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin opened the
unusually short meeting by saying this is probably the last session of the
“The whole country, opposition and coalition, agree that
it would be best if the Knesset went to elections so the next Knesset can make
difficult decisions,” he explained. “The only argument is when the vote will take place.”