Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will officially announce his decision to call early elections and seek a third term with a major address at the Likud convention Sunday night, ahead of the Knesset's all-but-certain decision to schedule elections for Sept. 4 by Tuesday.
On Monday, the Knesset will begin deliberating the proposed legislation to dissolve itself and move up the elections, currently scheduled for late 2013. Passage of the bill by Tuesday was all but guaranteed last week after the coalition secured the requisite support of at least 61 MKs for the measure.
While the prime minister's speech is likely to dominate the first night of the Likud convention, the party may decide on a whole host of issues Sunday, and continue to do so in following sessions. One of the most burning issues is the mechanism for electing its Knesset candidate list.
Inside the Likud there is growing consternation ahead of the party primaries over who would occupy the top slots in the party's Knesset candidate list. Over the weekend, Netanyahu's associates, together with the Likud's MK Danny Danon and Improvement of Government Services Minister Michael Eitan, agreed to have the convention elect the prime minister as its acting president. That election would be good for four months to facilitate the internal elections and possibly even secure seats for his preferred candidates. Once the general elections are held, the convention will resume its activities for three months and elect a new head. But Danon's bureau stressed that this arrangement is not final.
Next week Netanyahu, as the new convention president, will ask the convention to approve a set of rules for the party primaries, which may take place in the first two weeks of June. The prime minister hopes these new measures will placate party MKs vying for a place on the candidate list by increasing the number of slots earmarked for incumbent candidates (the so-called "national list") to accommodate for the large number of Likud MKs seeking re-election. Another idea currently being floated is to have certain Likud MKs run for seats earmarked for non-incumbent candidates who belong to certain demographics or districts. Among those mentioned is faction head MK Zeev Elkin, who may compete for the 21st place on the list, currently earmarked for new immigrants (he won the same slot last time around), as well as Deputy Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galile Ayoob Kara (a Druze), who may be allowed to run for the 24th place, earmarked for non-Jews. The party's Central Committee head, Welfare and Social Services Minister MK Moshe Kahlon, strongly opposes amending the rules for the sake of re-electing Elkin.
Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser is expected to make a run for the seat earmarked for the Tel Aviv district. Hauser was one of the three top officials at the Prime Minister's Office who approached Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein several months ago to report suspected sexual misconduct by Netanyahu's bureau chief at the time, Natan Eshel. Netanyahu, who was not aware of their move, accused the three of betraying his trust. Hauser will likely resign from his post if he launches a primary bid.