Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu casts his ballot for the parliamentary election as his son Yair stands behind him at a polling station in Jerusalem March 17, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS/SEBASTIAN SCHEINER/POOL)
Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assurance on Wednesday that his party does not want an early election, mark your calendars, ladies and gentlemen. Election season is on the way.
Tuesday night’s Supreme Court ruling requiring the Knesset to pass a new law by December 2 to draft yeshiva students made it very likely that an election will be held between the end of January and the end of February.
The government had asked for a seven-month extension of the September deadline to pass the law. Those seven months could have enabled the current government to last until the Knesset’s winter session takes its pre-Passover break.
There was still a small chance that the next election could have been held on time on the date set by law, Tuesday November 5. The chances of that happening now are extremely slim. It would require all the parties in the coalition to make compromises and pass the framework for drafting yeshiva students recommended by the IDF with little to no changes.
Ahead of an election is not a time when politicians like to compromise. On the contrary, that is the time when they like to flex their political muscles and show their constituents they are serving them well.
The only chance that will happen is if the heads of the parties in Netanyahu’s coalition all decide that they want the election postponed as much as possible, because they want to wait for Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to indict Netanyahu on bribery charges.
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Perhaps the parties will want to gamble that an indictment would finish off Netanyahu politically, and their parties would gain seats at the expense of his successor at the head of Likud. But Netanyahu has given no sign that an indictment would stop him from running..
Israeli police recommend bribery charges against Netanyahu, February 13, 2018 (Reuters)
The timing of Mandelblit’s decision cannot be counted on either, because he continues postponing it, as the police receive more evidence in the multiple probes against the prime minister. Those who thought it would be Mandelblit who would initiate the election were proven incorrect.
Anyone who thought the election would be initiated by the opposition in the Knesset was also wrong. Instead, it will apparently be the judges of the Supreme Court with their ruling on the yeshiva students.
So, if there is no draft law passed, when will the election be held? That requires simple math.
The minimum election period is 90 days. The parties tend to want an election to be held on the Tuesday immediately after that.
The Knesset comes back from its extended summer recess on Monday, October 15. Theoretically, if an election were initiated immediately, it would be held on Tuesday, January 15.
But Netanyahu has committed to passing a Basic Law, or an amendment to one, on the Druze before an election is initiated. Expediting such a law that nearly every party would support would still take a couple weeks, making the earliest realistic date for an election Tuesday, January 29.
The last day the Knesset meets before the December 2 deadline to pass the law, or ask for another extension because it cannot pass the law, is Wednesday, November 28.
Count 90 days, mark your calendars, and brace yourselves for a Tuesday, February 26 election. That is the last date the election can be held if a draft law is not passed.
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