(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already obtained the support of a majority of factions in the Knesset to pass a bill as early as next week that would initiate an election to likely be held in March, political sources said Thursday night.
The sources confirmed a Channel 2 report that the prime minister had started seeking support for a bill that would disperse the Knesset.
Those sources went further and said Netanyahu had more than enough support to pass the bill and start the race.
“It is still too soon to eulogize the coalition, but if there is no choice but to advance the election, there is no reason that it would be hard to pass the bill,” a source close to Netanyahu said.
“The final decision will be made next week. It can’t go on much longer.”
Netanyahu told confidants that he does not want elections but he was tired of coalition MKs acting as if they are in the opposition, condemning their own government and issuing ultimatums. He said a country cannot be run that way.
Besides passing a Knesset dispersal bill in three readings or if the passing of the state budget remains deadlocked by the end of the year, the only way to initiate an election is for Netanyahu to tell President Reuven Rivlin that he can no longer govern and ask him to disperse the Knesset.
But the prime minister does not have the ideal relationship with Rivlin, who has sharply criticized his “Jewish state” bill. Netanyahu would want to prevent Rivlin from using his power to appoint another MK to form a government without an election.
Shas has promised Netanyahu it would back dispersing the Knesset and would not cooperate with any attempt to form a new government in the current Knesset if he did not lead it.
“The prime minister does not have to worry,” Shas leader Arye Deri said. “We won’t be part of any maneuvers to crown [Labor leader Isaac] Herzog or [Yesh Atid chairman Yair] Lapid with this Knesset.”
Deri and United Torah Judaism continued to negotiate on Thursday with emissaries of Netanyahu, who is seeking commitments from them to support him forming the next government after a general election. Netanyahu’s goal is to initiate the election with enough firm commitments to recommend to Rivlin that he form the next coalition and that the president will have no choice but to appoint him.
“We are not stupid, and we know that we cannot leave to chance that enough parties will recommend him to form the next government,” a source close to Netanyahu said. “If there are elections, the parties on the Left will form a bloc that will run together. We don’t need our own joint ticket, but we do need to make sure enough parties will recommend him.”
A Smith Research poll published in the financial newspaper Globes Thursday night, found that if elections would be held now, Netanyahu would be able to form a 76-member coalition comprising Likud, Bayit Yehudi, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas, United Torah Judaism and a new socioeconomically focused party led by former social welfare minister Moshe Kahlon.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party would barely pass the threshold, according to the Globes poll as well as a Panels survey, broadcast on the Knesset Channel on Thursday. The Panels poll predicted there would be 70 seats for the three right-wing parties, Shas, UTJ and Kahlon.
Livni took a step that was interpreted as intended to avoid elections Thursday, when she rescinded her veto of the so-called “Haneen Zoabi bill,” which if passed would enable the parliament to remove the Balad MK from the Knesset immediately and permanently.
The bill, proposed by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu), would permit the Knesset to ban an lawmaker who encourages terrorism and acts against the state even if he or she has not been convicted of a crime. Livni and Rotem compromised Thursday that the courts would have to be involved before the Knesset decides the fate of such an MK.
Had Livni not rescinded her veto of the passage of the bill in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, Netanyahu would have passed it in the entire cabinet Sunday, and Livni would have been required by coalition discipline to support it in the Knesset. Removing the veto allows changes to be made and prevents yet another coalition crisis.
The Likud’s law committee decided Thursday to start the process of determining how to elect the party’s candidates for the next Knesset. The final decision will be made at next month’s Likud convention.