Netanyahu aims to avoid early election on budget

Officials close to PM say he will do "everything to pass state budget," avoid elections believed to be bad for Likud.

Fischer and Netanyau hold central bank's annual report 370 (photo credit: GPO)
Fischer and Netanyau hold central bank's annual report 370
(photo credit: GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will do everything possible to pass the 2013 state budget and avoid initiating an early election that he believes would be bad for Israel and for the Likud, officials close to Netanyahu said Thursday.
The officials reacted to reports that senior Likud politicians were urging him to initiate an immediate election in order to avoid making inevitable cutbacks.
The politicians warned that making the cuts before the election could harm the party and help Labor.
Netanyahu said Wednesday that “what Israel needs now is a responsible budget.” He warned that delays in making difficult economic decisions led to serious problems for other countries.
A Likud official loyal to Netanyahu said he knew for a fact that the prime minister had not made a decision on whether to initiate an early election.
He said it was likely that two central factors involved in that decision would be whether the budget could be passed and how the Iranian issue is decided.
“The option of early elections is obviously there,” the official said. “If he goes to elections now, he can’t say on the campaign trail that there won’t be cutbacks if he doesn’t want to be perceived as a liar. He is talking to the heads of the parties in the coalition about the budget and the gaps are not wide.”
Sources in Yisrael Beytenu and Shas said that the parties wanted the next election to be held on time in October 2013 but that they would not rubberstamp cutbacks they find unacceptable.
Likud officials denied a report claiming that Shas had been given an ultimatum on the budget.
“We need to be concerned about what would happen if the budget passed in the government and then our coalition partners prevented it from passing in the Knesset,” Vice Premier Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio. “The worst scenario is that the Likud will be blamed for the cutbacks and the budget does not even get passed.”
The budget is expected to come to a vote in the cabinet in mid-October, and it must be presented to the Knesset by the end of the month.
A Likud MK revealed that Netanyahu said in closed conversations that he regretted forming a short-lived national- unity government with Kadima and not initiating an election that would have been held last Tuesday.
Netanyahu met with Kadima leader MK Shaul Mofaz on Thursday and updated him on diplomatic, security and socioeconomic issues. The meeting took place 10 days after Mofaz sent a letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein complaining that Netanyahu was not fulfilling his legal obligation to update the opposition leader monthly.
The prime minister Mofaz not to leak sensitive information about Iran from the meeting. He complained that Mofaz had previously revealed information on Iran that he learned when he was a minister.
In the letter, Mofaz demanded an immediate meeting to discuss Netanyahu’s preparations for a potential unilateral strike on Iran. He sent a confidential document on Iran to Weinstein with the letter that was not released to the press.
Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich called upon Netanyahu to set a date for the election before passing the budget. Speaking at a conference in Holon, she said the prime minister should pick a day that a consensus of parties can agree on.