'Netanyahu's mind made up on calling early election'

Politicians say PM decided to seek February elections; Knesset Speaker Rivlin says Knesset should be dissolved October 15.

Netanyahu R370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu R370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has already made a final decision to seek a February 12 election rather than try to pass the 2013 state budget, politicians who spoke to Netanyahu said on Thursday.
Netanyahu has said that he will make a final decision when the Knesset returns from its extended summer recess on October 15. But the politicians who spoke to him said he left no doubt that his mind was already made up.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told Netanyahu and coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin to initiate elections immediately in the first few hours of the Knesset’s winter session. He warned that if the Knesset was not immediately dissolved, parties would try to pass expensive populist legislation and the economy could be harmed. Rivlin said initiating immediate elections was also important in order to pass the budget as soon as possible following the vote.
“There is no doubt that a political ruling has been made, and all of the parties are ready for an election,” Rivlin said during a Succot celebration in Migron in Samaria.
Rivlin pointed out that there is an international economic crisis that threatens to reach Israel, saying that, without a budget for 2013, there could be serious socioeconomic ramifications and harm to the weaker sectors of the population.
If the Knesset is dissolved on October 15, the earliest possible time to hold an election would be January 15, 2013.
However, echoing statements by Netanyahu’s office, Rivlin said he thought that the vote would be held in the second or third week of February.
Netanyahu was scheduled to meet late on Thursday with Habayit Hayehudi chairman and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz, and on Friday with Yisrael Beytenu leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
In radio interviews on Thursday, Liberman endorsed initiating early elections.
“I prefer elections to election economics,” he said. “We are ready for elections at any moment. We support self-restraint, but we can’t have only one party with responsibility. We can no longer waste time. It’s time for decisions.”
Liberman called for an end to the “public bickering” between Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, which he said did no good for the government. Netanyahu and Barak have not spoken since Netanyahu made statements condemning the defense minister for meeting American officials behind his back. No meeting was set for Friday either.
Israel Radio reported that Barak, who also heads the Independence Party, met with former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni in New York two weeks ago, angering Netanyahu. According to the report, the Likud Party sees the meeting as an attempt by Barak to coordinate politically with Livni, and to potentially cooperate with her in the future. But Barak’s office said Livni initiated the meeting and that it was insignificant.
Amid reports that Livni intends to form a new party later this month, she has remained mum.
She wrote on Facebook Thursday for the first time since the election atmosphere began on Tuesday.
But rather than address the potential race in Israel, she focused her remarks on Wednesday night’s presidential debate in the US. She complained that while the presidential candidates were debating, their wives were competing with a cookie bake-off.