Thursday, October 11, 2012

Early Israeli elections

PM Netanyahu has called for new elections "as soon as possible" probably by Jan-Feb 2013, instead of the full term that would end in Oct 2013, so ca. 8 months early.  In doing so he stated that he was doing this in the national interest, but everyone knows that it is politics that has determined his about-face.  Apparently the PM was having difficulty convincing his coalition partners to accept cuts in the State Budget for 2013 that he regards as necessary for the economic health of the nation. 
As you may remember we narrowly missed having early elections twice before, in May 2012  when the Tal Law governing Army induction of the haredi population was about to expire.  But this was narrowly averted when Kadima under Shaul Mofaz joined the coalition, and then again in August when Kadima left the coalition.   However, this time is seems to be for real. 
What are the reasons governing this decision? 1. The ostensible reason is the inability of Netanyahu to persuade his coalition partners to accept his 2013 budget, that means that he cannot pass it and prefers to call elections to avoid a coalition fight; 2. The US elections are looming in a month and whoever is chosen President, Netanyahu would like to negotiate with him holding a new mandate, for 3. The possibility of a fateful clash with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program. 
No PM orders an election unless he expects to gain a larger majority for his Party than he already has.  The current polls give Likud an extra seat in the Knesset, not much, but maybe more.  The main prediction of the polls is that the Left is so fragmented and lacks strong and charismatic leadership that is is likely to lose many votes.  Labor under Shelli Yachimovitch is expected to do reasonably well, but the far left is already weakened and Kadima, the center left party, is expected to lose big.  Mofaz has failed to gain traction as the party leader and is not considered a threat to Netanyahu.  Similarly Ehud Barak, the Defense Minister, and his Independence Party are not expected to do well.  One unknown is the new Yesh Atid (There is a future) Party of Yair Lapid, which is predicted to win 9-10 seats.  Also, Avigdor Lieberman with his Yisrael Beitanu Party on the right is likely to retain his current level of support.   Similarly Shas might be the same.
However, lurking on the sidleines is Netanyahu's old nemesis, Ehud Olmert.  After managing to avoid several charges of corruption and coming out of his mess not smelling like roses, but still surviving, Olmert fancies his chances anew.  Many have warned him not to try, beceause the public are unlikely to forgive him, but politics is a strange game and who knows what will transpire.  So we, the Israeli public, face a welter of choices, but the likely outcome is that Likud will win again, and Netanyahu will form a new but similar coalition, and once again will have to compromise in order to pass his 2013 budget. 


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