With speculation mounting in Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will call a general election within weeks, opposition leaders have welcomed the idea of an early poll.
Although an election is not scheduled until October 2013, media reports have indicated that Netanyahu will struggle to reach agreement in his own coalition over the proposed 2013 budget, which is set to include a series of deep cuts. Failure to pass the budget in the Knesset would automatically trigger the dissolution of parliament and the start of an election campaign. Rather than struggle for political support to pass the budget, it is widely expected that Netanyahu will announce elections, with this morning’s Israel Hayom predicting an announcement within two weeks.
Opposition leader and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz yesterday spoke in support of early elections, despite his party’s recent poor showing in polls. He said, “Kadima is ready for elections at any time… Netanyahu should be replaced, and hope should be restored to the Israeli people.”
Meanwhile, Labour Party chairwoman Shelly Yechimovich also encouraged Netanyahu to go to the polls, commenting, “Setting a date for elections will lessen uncertainty regarding the state budget… Israel needs elections to decide between the various alternatives.” Labour looks set to increase its strength in the next elections, taking advantage of the increased focus on social issues in Israel over the past 18 months.
In a related story, both Haaretz and Maariv this morning report on an apparent dispute between Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak. Netanyahu reportedly accused Barak of exacerbating tensions between the Prime Minister and US President Obama, in an attempt to position himself as a moderating figure during an upcoming Israeli election campaign.