JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government decided this week to hold early national elections in April six months ahead of schedule.
After the recent revelation of the Hezbollah tunnels, Netanyahu said the time is right for early elections.
“Six weeks ago when the possibility of bringing down the government was before us I said that we have urgent security matters to deal with, I couldn’t reveal then what we did a couple of weeks later, which is to start this big operation to neutralize completely, the terror tunnels of Hezbollah, that’s what we have done since,” Netanyahu said.
Israelis in Jerusalem, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Six weeks ago, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned over the security situation in Gaza and since then the government has ruled with a shaky majority.
“The current government in Israel has a very thin majority of 61 out of 120. In other words, it has a difficult time functioning and it has already been in power for almost four years, which means elections were inevitable,” said Hebrew University Professor Reuven Hazan from the Political Science Department.
The government decided to go to early elections after it came up short in a vote for a contentious piece of legislation.
“I think it’s perfectly sensible to go to elections now. We had a complete agreement by the way, of all the partners, complete unanimity and a great partnership for Israel,” Netanyahu said.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said it was time for Netanyahu to step aside.
MK Tzipi Livni, Screen Capture, AP
“Netanyahu needs to leave, and better an hour earlier, because on his way out Netanyahu will try to destroy what is left of the Israeli democracy,” Livni said.
Later, Livni called on the center-left to form a united bloc to defeat Netanyahu.
But latest polls show Netanyahu achieving a solid victory in new elections.
“The next elections in Israel are basically going to be a battle within the right-wing in Israel. In other words, how far ahead Netanyahu’s Likud party will come out and how much power he will have in the next multi-party coalition government,” Hazan said.
According to the professor, Israel’s left-wing is different from other countries’ left-wing.
“The left-wing in Israel, unlike in the rest of the world, is not a socio-economic left-wing,” he said. “The number one issue in Israeli politics is security and the left over the last decade or two has hitched its platform much more to a land-for-peace security formula, which today with Hamas and Hezbollah and so forth is not a platform that can win a lot of votes in Israel.”
Hebrew University Political Science Professor Reuven Hazan, Screen Capture
Hazan said legal challenges facing Netanyahu probably won’t be a factor in the elections.
“Netanyahu will more than likely than not face an indictment in the next months, probably after the April elections. Now, any member of the Israeli parliament that the attorney general decides to indict, they must resign their office, including sitting cabinet members,” he explained. “The only member of the entire Israeli parliament that does not have to resign is the prime minister because by law in Israel if the prime minister resigns, the entire cabinet, the entire government, collapses and we don’t want to bring down an entire government because of legal proceedings.”
As far as the peace process is concerned, the early elections will likely delay President Trump’s rollout of his peace plan once again.
Palestinian Authority parliamentarian Mustafa Barghouti said dissolving the Israeli Knesset is a sign Netanyahu failed.
“He failed in Gaza; he failed in the north; he failed in the West Bank and he and his government have become an obstruction to any possibility of progress toward real peace. This government has to go,” said Barghouti.
But Palestinians are already at odds with the US over its embassy move to Jerusalem and other issues. And a solid win for Netanyahu could give him backing for his position.