Steve Weizman, AFP
Last updated: 2 May, 2012

Netanyahu bloc wants September 4 election, according to Israeli media

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition has tabled a motion to dissolve parliament and call an early general election on September 4, coalition chairman Zeev Elkin said late on Wednesday.

“I submitted the draft this morning,” he told Israeli public radio.

“The consensus of most of the coalition parties and part of the opposition is that the election will take place on September 4,” Elkin said. “That is the agreed date…a final decision will be taken on Sunday.”

Netanyau on Sunday ends the traditional week of Jewish mourning for his father, who died aged 102 on Monday. That same evening, he is to address a convention of his Likud party.

Elkin said the possibility of early elections had been under discussion for some time and draft legislation for the dissolution of parliament had been readied in advance.

“We can pass it within a day or two, at the beginning of next week — Monday, Tuesday. I’ve reached agreement with most of the parties in the parliament, which gives us the necessary majority regarding the date. Everything is ready,” he said.

Army radio said that the bill to dissolve the Knesset was likely to get a preliminary reading on Monday and will probably be passed into law by Wednesday.

Netanyahu himself has so far not confirmed publicly he intends to bring forward the election from its scheduled date of October 2013, but he is widely expected to announce the date at Sunday’s Likud convention.

Riding high in popularity polls, the premier is said to favour early polls in a bid to strengthen his position before a potential fight over austerity measures and US presidential elections in November.

Netanyahu has differed with US President Barack Obama on issues ranging from the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process to Iran’s nuclear programme.

Another key reason for bringing the vote forward is a dispute over the issue of drafting Orthodox Jews into the army, which has threatened the stability of Netanyahu’s coalition.

The so-called Tal Law, which allowed ultra-Orthodox Jews to defer their service in the Israeli military, is strongly opposed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s staunchly secular Yisrael Beitenu party.

Netanyahu has pledged to replace the law, which expires this year, with a more “egalitarian” rule, but is caught between Yisrael Beitenu and the ultra-Orthodox factions in his coalition, who adamantly oppose military service.

The Knesset is expected to debate a replacement law on May 9.

Whenever the elections are held, opinion polls have consistently showed Netanyahu and his Likud party coming out on top, with no credible rival to the prime minister.

A poll published by the Yediot Aharonot newspaper on Monday showed Likud increasing its strength from 27 to 30 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, if elections were held today.

The Labour party stands to make the biggest relative gain, winning 18 seats, from the nine it currently holds, while Yisrael Beitenu would lose two seats, leaving it with 13, the poll showed.

The main opposition Kadima is expected to suffer crushing losses, with its standing reduced from 28 seats to 11, while the newly formed Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party would win 11 seats, the poll found.