Olmert livni cabinet 248.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Politicians expressed concern on Saturday night that the general election set for February 10 could be postponed if the IDF operations in the Gaza Strip require people to remain in bomb shelters for an extended period.
They noted that the two people who stood to benefit most from such a delay were Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who are in charge of the war. A postponement would allow both men to extend their stay in their current posts, which Olmert will definitely and Barak may lose after the election.
There is precedent for a government passing a law in the Knesset to delay an election due to war. Elections to the Eighth Knesset were postponed from October 30 to December 31, 1973, due to the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War.
Labor Party officials speculated that a delay could help their chances, but they said a quick and decisive victory would be more helpful. They said the war was Barak's chance to remind voters "that we need someone with his experience, someone sane to be in power in these crazy times."
"Yes, it could [help us], but wars aren't waged to help the Labor Party," said Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel.
Barak's office said he was taking a break from politics to devote himself exclusively to running the operations in Gaza.
"It's too early to talk about delaying the election, and it shouldn't be on the national agenda when we are all focused on reaching our goals in the Gaza Strip," a source close to Barak said. "It would be wrong to make any statement that connects what's happening in Gaza to politics."
Olmert thanked the heads of Likud, Israel Beiteinu and Meretz on Saturday night for expressing full support for the military operations.
Kadima, Likud and Meretz canceled political events set for Saturday night and put future ones on hold.
"We welcome the change from passive acceptance of rocket fire on our civilians to initiated attacks," Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu said in a press conference at his party's Tel Aviv headquarters.
"There is a time for disagreements and a time for unity, and this is a time for unity. If our enemies thought we would be divided by their missiles, they were wrong," he said.
While Meretz leader Haim Oron expressed support for the air attacks, he cautioned against an extended operation, especially a ground incursion that could entail "getting stuck in the mud of Gaza."
"It is in Israel's interest to reach a cease-fire agreement as soon as possible," Oron said. "It is important to act very carefully to ensure the safety of Gilad Schalit and the residents of the South."
Some 200 leftist protesters led by Hadash Chairman Dov Henin demonstrated outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Saturday night against what they called the "slaughter in Gaza."