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Knesset moves toward September 4 election
By LAHAV HARKOV
05/08/2012
Likud slams Kadima for opposing bill to dissolve Knesset; Yacimovich, Mofaz affirm candidacy for PM.
 
The Knesset headed toward dissolution on Monday night, voting on a bill that would bring elections on September 4.

The legislation was brought to its first reading Monday night, and was expected to be sent immediately to the Knesset House Committee to be prepared for its second and third (final) readings. It was unclear at press time whether the bill would be finalized later Monday night or brought to its last vote on Tuesday due to a filibuster.

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that the government is submitting a bill to dissolve the Knesset and bring an early vote on September 4.

“We do not want a year-and-a-half of blackmail and populism or a year-and-a-half election campaign,” he said at a Likud faction meeting.

“This government has had many achievements in the past three years, because of our ministers’ and MKs’ efforts, because of cooperation and political stability.”

Netanyahu repeated his claim from Sunday night’s Likud convention that an election would bring increased stability.

Soon after Netanyahu presented the bill, it was brought to the Knesset House Committee to be expedited – where, ironically, only leading opposition party Kadima voted against it.

“The saddest, most embarrassing and pathetic thing – which is unprecedented in 64 years – is that the government wants to dissolve the Knesset and the opposition is doing everything to stop it,” MK Ophir Akunis (Likud) told the committee.

According to MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima), his party is prepared for an election at any time and is not afraid. However, he added, Netanyahu has not made any positive changes and missed an opportunity to pass an alternative to the “Tal Law,” which would require universal service.

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) had a different take, which he shared with the committee.

“Is there nothing else? No Iran, no economy, no social issues? Just the Tal Law? There is murder in the streets, but all you care about are haredim. I am sick of you,” he exclaimed, before being removed from the meeting.

MK Einat Wilf (Independence) said votes should be cast by secret ballot, a call repeated by Deputy Knesset Speaker Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) during speeches leading up to the vote that evening. Both said that if the vote was open, most MKs would be against dissolving the Knesset.

Also on Monday, Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich and Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz affirmed their candidacy for the position of Israel’s next prime minister.

Yacimovich said her party’s goal is to topple the Netanyahu government, and she is glad that the election will be held as soon as possible.

“We are against the assumption that Netanyahu will rule forever,” she said. “He was not anointed as king.”

In a dig at Kadima, Yacimovich said Labor has a real ideology – social democracy – and does not need to look for a new agenda.

Therefore, she added, her party is the true alternative to the Likud.

According to Yacimovich, the fact that Netanyahu and Mofaz both attacked her in recent speeches shows that Labor is doing well.

“Labor sold out its ideology for votes,” Mofaz said earlier Monday, adding that it is not too late for the party to change its mind.

“Kadima will form the next government,” Mofaz said with confidence, expressing support for a unity government that all Zionist parties can join.

He announced that Kadima will lead Israel and is the responsible alternative to Netanyahu’s government, since the party has solutions for Israel’s challenges.

"Around this table,” Mofaz said, pointing to Kadima’s MKs, “we have the most experienced and talented people who have proven themselves. We have experience making decisions and have stood up to security challenges.

Israel cannot bet on its future or on failed or inexperienced leaders.”

“Mofaz is the real Iranian threat to Netanyahu,” MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) quipped, referring to the party leader’s Persian origins.

Regarding the expectation that Kadima will drop from 28 to 10 or 11 MKs, Mofaz said Kadima will influence the polls, and not vice versa.

Israel has no strategic military partnership with the US due to the policies of Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, he added.

“The current government must take the position that the US leads when it comes to Iran,” he said, stressing that an early attack on Iran would endanger Israel. “We must fully cooperate on this issue and work for stronger sanctions, including from Russia and China.”

Mofaz also asserted that Netanyahu did not bring about changes in any of the major issues on the national agenda, such as haredi and Arab enlistment in the IDF, social issues, changing the system of government and peace talks.

“Netanyahu has admitted his failure, because there is no stronger admission than the fact that the government did not make any changes on these matters,” Mofaz said. “Everyone sees that the emperor is naked. He ran away from making decisions; there won’t be any changes under his leadership.”
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