Sept. elections likely; poll shows big Likud lead

Survey shows Netanyahu, Likud leading with 31 seats, Kadima dropping to 10; early vote would extend "Tal Law" 6-8 months.

Bibi netanyahu (photo credit: JPost Staff)
Bibi netanyahu
(photo credit: JPost Staff)
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) on Wednesday submitted a bill to dissolve the Knesset, which will be put to a vote next week, bringing an early election that is likely to take place on September 4.
The Likud would have 31 seats in the next Knesset, with Kadima dropping from largest to fifth-largest faction at only 10 seats, a Dahaf Institute poll sponsored by the Knesset Channel showed Wednesday.
According to the poll, Labor will be the second-largest faction with 17 seats, followed by Yisrael Beytenu with 13 and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party with 12.
In addition, 62 percent of Israelis do not think an election is necessary, and only 27% say an early vote would be for the good of the country.
Following agreements by most parties in the coalition and opposition, the bill to dissolve the Knesset is expected to be approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday, which will accelerate the legislative process and put the bill to a preliminary Knesset vote on Monday.
The bill’s first, second and third (final) readings are likely to take place on Tuesday, setting an early election. The last day of the 18th Knesset is expected to be on Wednesday, May 9, during which its final legislation will be approved.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office say Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would like to hold an election as soon as possible, which would be mid-August.
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman said the same on Monday. However, United Torah Judaism and Kadima said they prefer October, after the High Holy Days and Succot.
Netanyahu is meeting with coalition party leaders in an attempt to find a compromise on the date for the vote, as he sits the shiva mourning period for his father, Benzion, who died on Monday at age 102.
Most sources in the Knesset advocate September 4, 2012, as the election date.
Until the legislature is dissolved, the election is set for October 22, 2013.
Meanwhile, Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon pointed out an unexpected result of an early election: The “Tal Law,” which expires on July 31, will be automatically extended if the Knesset is not in session.
Yinon’s legal opinion came in a response to a letter from MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ), who has fought to keep the Tal Law, which allows haredi (ultra- Orthodox) yeshiva students to defer IDF service indefinitely, even though the High Court of Justice ordered that it not be renewed.
Finding alternatives to the law has been a major political issue in recent months, and is likely to be the center of several parties’ campaigns.
The Tal Law will not be canceled until after a new government is formed, following the election. Elections may be held 94 days to five months after the Knesset is dissolved, and it can take up to 100 days after the vote to form a coalition. Therefore, the Tal Law will remain intact for at least six months and up to eight months.
In Wednesday’s plenum meeting, Kadima argued against a snap election, hoping it would be pushed off until after the High Holy Days, while the coalition was adamantly in favor.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) asked Kadima MKs from the Knesset’s stage: “Is there any other place in the world where the opposition fights to push off elections? You have been in the opposition for three-and-a-half years, and you still say you are not ready.”
Pointing out that Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz called to replace the government, Sa’ar quipped: “Here’s your chance. Let’s have a short and matter-offact campaign season, where you present your platform and we will show our achievements and the people will decide.”
MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) responded that her party wants the government to fall, but she does not understand why expensive elections have been called now.
“Netanyahu is just afraid that Liberman will catch up to him [in the polls], and we are all paying the price,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Likud is preparing for its convention on Sunday, where a date for the vote on the party’s candidates list will be announced. Sources in the party said the primary is likely to take place in early June.
Labor refused to confirm rumors about new members added to its list for the 19th Knesset, but National Student Union chairmen Itzik Shmuli and Stav Shafir, both leaders of last summer’s social justice protests, are possible candidates.
Shafir spoke at the Labor Ideological Conference last month, while Shmuli is also considering running with Yesh Atid.
Dan Slyper, an activist who supported Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich in the party’s leadership race, announced on Wednesday night that he will run in the party’s primary.
Slyper will be the first openly gay man running for the Labor list.
Kadima MKs Nachman Shai and Marina Solodkin, two of former party leader Tzipi Livni’s closest allies, denied media reports that they and other like-minded Kadima lawmakers would leave the faction to run with a Livni-led party for the 19th Knesset.
“The rumors started because some people are scared, since Mofaz threatens different parties [than Livni], such as Likud and Shas,” Solodkin explained.
“I know Livni. She wants a break, and will probably be back for the 20th Knesset.”