Sara Hussein, AFP
Last updated: 7 May, 2012

Israel’s Netanyahu set to call early vote

Israel’s parliament said on Monday it could dissolve its current session later the same day, paving the way for an early vote that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping to hold on September 4.

“We are proposing September 4,” Netanyahu told a morning meeting of his cabinet, a day after formally announcing he would seek to move up elections but without specifying a date.

The draft bill to dissolve the Knesset has already raced through a ministerial legislative committee and on to the Knesset house committee.

There it was given special fast-track approval for an immediate debate and first reading, committee chairman Shimon Malka told AFP.

Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin said the bill could also pass its second and third readings and become law by the end of the day, with the house going into a pre-election recess at once.

“The bill to dissolve the Knesset will be put to a first reading, then there will be a debate on other government bills,” the parliamentary spokesman’s office quoted Rivlin as saying.

“Rivlin left room for the possibility that the Knesset could tonight complete legislation for dissolving (itself),” it added in a statement.

“The Knesset will go into pre-election recess immediately after the legislation is complete,” it quoted Rivlin as saying. “That could happen during the coming night or during Tuesday.”

Netanyahu’s timetable has come under fire from the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu, the centre-right Kadima party, and the centrist Independence party.

All three parties want to delay dissolving the Knesset until MPs have voted on a new law governing military service for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

But in an apparent nod to them, the ministerial legislative committee also fast-tracked their bills on the issue, allowing them to be put to an early vote, Israeli media said.

Rivlin said that bills approved for a first reading on Monday would be allowed to go to second and third readings during the recess.

On Sunday night, Netanyahu announced his intention to bring forward the elections from the scheduled date of October 2013.

“I don’t want there to be a year-and-a-half of political instability accompanied by blackmail and populism. I’d prefer a short electoral campaign of four months that will ensure political stability,” he told a meeting of his rightwing Likud party in Tel Aviv.

His speech ended months of speculation about whether he would seek to bring forward the elections in a bid to bolster his position and capitalise on his popularity.

Polls show he could hardly have picked a better time to seek re-election, with surveys showing he easily outstrips his rivals for the office of prime minister.