Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a press conference in Jerusalem that elections will be held within three months. Earlier in the day the prime minister met with coalition partners and Likud leaders to discuss a date for the elections.
Shelly Yachimovich, chairwoman of the opposition Labor party said that her preferred date for elections was January 29 2013 but elections may also be held as early as January 15.
Netanyahu told the press conference that Israel needs a stable government to pass a budget that meets the global economic challenges and Israel's security threats.
After meeting United Torah Judaism leaders, Knesset Finance Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni and Deputy Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman, the prime minister decided to call early elections rather than attempt to pass the 2013 budget. Other party leaders who met with Netanyahu last week believed that he preferred early elections, and that talks on the budget were merely for show.
At today's meeting, Netanyahu offered Gafni and Litzman various dates for early elections, and said that he preferred February 12. They replied that this date was problematic for the haredi (ultra-orthodox) community, and asked for an earlier or later date. Netanyahu said that he wanted to complete four years in office, which was why he wants to hold elections after February 10, the day he took up office in 2009. Nevertheless, he prefers a date in late January or early February to a later date.
Netanyahu also asked Gafni and Litzman their opinion on the chances of passing an austerity budget, and whether it would be possible to cut the child's allowance.
The haredi parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas believe that Netanyahu wants early elections, and that he will announce them soon. Despite all the talk about early elections within three or four months, behind the scenes some people had believed that there was still a chance for passing the 2013 budget. This assessment assumed that, following the victory by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in last week's debate with President Barack Obama, Netanyahu prefers postponing elections. In this scenario, Netanyahu would have won a majority for the budget, because no political party had an interest in early elections.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 9, 2012
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