Israeli Election to Come Early
As sequestration looms over American political discourse, Israel too faces its own financial impasse. And with an untenable coalition needed to pass an Israeli budget, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Tuesday for an early election, likely to take place in January or February of 2013.
After meeting with various coalition partners, Prime Minister Netanyahu recognized the improbability of reaching a budget agreement, particularly since the Shas party resists any cuts that would affect the elderly, single parents, or the poor. Rather than risk a continued standoff, the Prime Minister thought it would be in the best interest of Israel to re-form the Knesset in hopes of reaching a coalition capable of passing a budget. He told a national TV audience Tuesday, “My duty as prime minister is to put the national interest before everything, and so I’ve decided that for the good of Israel we must go to an election now as fast as possible.”
With high popularity and approval ratings, the Prime Minister’s decision to hold early elections appears to have strategic value as well, offering less time for opposition parties to mobilize their constituents and to mount their own campaigns. With widespread concern over the potential of a nuclear Iran and turbulent transitions throughout the Middle East, the Prime Minister may also be hoping that his campaign will succeed if he rides the wave of the increased attention to Israel’s security. Whether these advantages will secure the election for Likud is still to be determined. Opponents of Prime Minister Netanyahu may seek to capitalize on questions relating to Israel’s relationship with the U.S., as well as stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.
The early election has been met with broad appeal, with members of leftist parties eager to reassert themselves back into the political discourse (click here for an overview of the main political parties in the coming election). Current polling data suggests that just 35% of Israelis consider Prime Minister Netanyahu to be the most suitable candidate for Prime Minister, but the next closest leader is Shelly Yachimovich, polling in with under half of the support garnered by Netanyahu. Yachimovich leads the Israeli Labor Party, which is still enjoying a boost from the social protest rallies that swept through Israel last summer. Yachimovich’s campaign will likely focus on the growing economic inequality in Israel.
There remains the possibility that other big-name candidates will throw their hats into the ring, such as former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, but his current legal woes may prevent him from mounting a campaign.
As news continues to develop pertaining to early elections, we will continue to monitor events and update readers on the coming election.
Image courtesy of The Jerusalem Gift Shop