Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu suggests Sept 4 for early elections


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tell the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on May 7, 2012 that he will attempt to pass a bill to dissolve the parliament and set a date for new elections.


Gali Tibbon

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a general election to be held on Sept. 4, more than a year earlier than planned.

Reuters reports that Netanyahu made the announcement to his cabinet in Tel Aviv on Monday, amid increasing instability over the budget debate and the so-called Tal Law that would force ultra-Orthodox Jews to serve in the military.

"My intention is to form as wide a coalition as possible in order to bring about stability and lead Israel in the face of the great challenges still ahead of us," Netanyahu is quoted as saying.

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The move would likely increase the chances of Netanyahu and his Likud party securing a second term in office, The Guardian says, adding that it could also result in a coalition made up of centrist parties "more open to making concessions to the Palestinians."

The situation also adds new uncertainty over what action Israel will take Iran's suspected nuclear program, with the local Hareetz news service insisting the election will "not be a referendum" on military action.  "According to surveys, if the public brings the right wing back into power, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be given free rein to forcibly destroy the Iranian nuclear program," the article states.

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According to The New York Times, many analysts believe Netanyahu is considering an October strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities and wants elections before then.  Others think he is simply trying to secure a strong vote of confidence before the US presidential elections.

Polls suggest Likud will win at least a quarter of the Knesset's 120 seats in an early poll, the BBC says, adding that he must now put a bill to parliament proposing the Sept. 4 date.  It may face opposition from the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, as well as the centrist Kadima and Independent parties, all of whom want to delay dissolving parliament until after the vote on the changes to the Tal Law.