Thursday July 31, 2014
Israel Hayom
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31.07.2014
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Dan Margalit

Early elections look likely

Since the moment it became clear that suspicion and criticism have come to characterize the most stable relationship in the government, that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a political reality has been created pointing toward early elections. It is not important if the suspicions are well-founded or not. It does not matter if Barak was trying to sell the Americans an alternative to Netanyahu's policies or not. The situation has resulted from the subjective feelings of each of them, individually.

At the crux of the matter, as it was expressed by one of the most prominent leaders in the Arab world, is not just the apparent rift between Israel and the U.S. that aids Iran's efforts to advance its nuclear project. Disputes between top Israeli politicians have the same effect.

In May, Netanyahu and Barak had no intention of bringing about early elections, which is why they worked to add Shaul Mofaz to the government. They acted in accordance with the proverb that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Every politician knows it is better to sit on the chair they already have than to seek two virtual chairs in elections.

Netanyahu has explained the importance of long-lasting government stability. But such stability has already been achieved in his current term. If the elections are brought forward to Feb. 2013, the current Knesset will have lasted for four years. This has not happened since 1999. Since then, elections have been held at more frequent intervals, in 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2009. Not one of those Knessets lasted four years. The remaining months between February and the originally scheduled election date in October are like "injury time" in a soccer match — leftover months that have accumulated from the advancement of previous elections. In normal situations, elections are held every four years.

The main reason for advancing the elections is the economic situation. Likud ministers believe that as long as elections are pushed off, they will have to deal with growing public anger, even though Netanyahu has explained to them that he believes the opposite is true. After the presidential election in November, the U.S. will adopt an economic plan, which will also benefit Israel. Holding the elections on the scheduled date in October would therefore not necessarily place Likud in front of a grumbling voting public.

Most ministers do not believe this, however. Gideon Sa'ar, Gilad Erdan and Silvan Shalom think that it is worthwhile for Likud for the elections to be held early. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz is the only Likud minister who has his doubts. Also, the opposition will be more prepared the later elections are held. Labor's Shelly Yachimovich and Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid are apparently already organizing for the elections. Will Tzipi Livni take a bite at a big chunk of Kadima voters? For Shas leader Eli Yishai, early elections would be a good thing, certainly after Aryeh Deri signaled his desire to return to politics. For Avigdor Lieberman, early elections would be a practical acknowledgement that the investigations into his alleged corruption has been closed.

So is there a chance that the elections will be moved up? It is more likely than not.

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