Netanyahu: Time to hold new elections

Likud leader confirms talk of former party members returning from Kadima.

netanyahu 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
netanyahu 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu launched fresh attacks against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday, saying the government had failed and calling for new elections. "We need to have elections," he said during a press conference. "Most of the people have lost confidence in this government. The Knesset may not be ready for elections, but that appears to be what the public wants... The government failed in the war and the people want different leadership." The Likud chairman likened the government to a sinking ship, "moving in circles in stormy waters." Netanyahu expressed optimism about his party's standing. He said he had been passed information that "a number" of Kadima MKs were interested in returning to the Likud, which they left together with former prime minister Ariel Sharon, but stressed that he was not actively involved in recruiting them. Netanyahu refused to name the Kadima MKs who allegedly expressed interest in joining the Likud. "Netanyahu has failed the public and has been removed from office twice," a Kadima source said in response. Netanyahu also said he had a "clear and viable" plan for ensuring Israel's safety. He announced that he was tackling Iran's nuclear program with a new law intended to strengthen economic sanctions on Iran. The bill would prevent Israeli companies from investing in any company that does business in Iran, he said. Netanyahu said Likud, Labor, Meretz, Kadima and Israel Beiteinu MKs had already signed the bill. In the coming weeks it will go to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation before it returns to the Knesset for a first vote, he said. "I expect the bill to pass by a wide majority," he said. "If the government wanted to propose this bill I would support it... I see it as something that crosses party lines." Netanyahu said he would be traveling to the United States next week to help promote a similar law that has been proposed in Congress. "The idea for this bill came because I knew that I could not go abroad and ask them to support this type of law, without Israel itself passing a similar bill," he said. Based on the results of a Channel 10 poll released Wednesday, Netanyahu is the prime candidate for prime minister, leading the pack with the support of 30% of those polled, followed by Labor MK Ami Ayalon at 18%. Former Labor prime minister Ehud Barak had the support of 12% of those polled, followed by Israel Beiteinu Party head Avigdor Lieberman, who garnered support from only 7% of the poll participants. The only politician less popular then Olmert is Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz - Olmert was favored by only 3% of the voters polled. Peretz fared even worse and received only 1% of the vote. Some 72% said Olmert should resign, but only 57% said they wanted elections now. It was not the only poll that showed the depths to which Olmert's popularity has sunk. A survey of 400 Israelis commissioned by Ynet showed that 64% want Olmert to resign and call for new elections. To add insult to injury, it was reported on Wednesday that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's brother, Eli, left the Kadima party in favor of the Likud party. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.•