PM Netanyahu, who has been in office since 2009, called for an early general election this past Tuesday. The election, which could occur as soon as January, was originally scheduled for October of 2013. According to Haaretz News, Israel’s next election is to be held on January 22, 2013.
For nearly four years, Binyamin Netanyahu has presided over a conservative coalition that has proven stable in a country where governments rarely serve out a full term. If Netanyahu is able to complete his term it will be the first time a PM has done so in many years.
The Washington Post said, “Israeli parliamentary elections are usually called early, and Netanyahu’s announcement was widely expected.”
Netanyahu said he had decided to pull the date forward because bickering among his coalition partners had made it impossible to pass a the 2013 budget. Netanyahu has been unable to agree the annual budget with his coalition partners, a disagreement that ended up sparking Netanyahu’s call for an early election.
In a public speech Netanyahu said, “At this time, in the face of the turmoil around us, it is my obligation as prime minister to put the national interest above all. Therefore I have decided for the benefit of Israel to hold elections now and as quickly as possible.” At the time of his speech Netanyahu did not set a date, but rather said it would be preferable to have as short a campaign as possible.
Netanyahu is expected to be re-elected as prime minister due to the fact that the opposition is “fragmented and leaderless”, according to Aljazeera.
The immediate reason for the snap elections was the coalition’s inability to pass a 2013 budget by a December 31 deadline, but people are speculation that Netanyahu is trying to capitalize on his current standing amongst the Israeli people. Given his high standings in opinion polls and the lack of a clear rival, Netanyahu has taken the chance of calling elections early with hopes of remaining PM.
In a televised announcement Tuesday, Netanyahu said the election was necessary to ensure “a responsible security and economic policy” in the face of the economic downturn and threats to Israel’s security from Iran and elsewhere.
A victory would allow Netanyahu to press ahead with budget cuts opposed by coalition partners and sustain his push for aggressive action against Iran. Reelection also would cement Netanyahu’s mandate ahead of an expected economic slowdown and possible pressure from a newly elected U.S. president for peace talks with the Palestinians, which have effectively been frozen for two years. Netanyahu is hopeful that he will be able to continue putting pressure on Iran, challenging their nuclear program.
Discussion Questions: How will the early election of Prime Minister in Israel change the election process? Will the effects be overwhelmingly positive or negative? If Netanyahu had chosen not to call an early election, how would the next nine months have played out? Would the government have been able to come to terms over the budget for the upcoming year?