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Early Israeli Election & Iran

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: "I Call For An Early Election As Soon As Possible Because Coalition Partners Refuse To Compromise On Responsible Budget"

Election Day Predicted For February - Campaign To Be Waged Over Iran & Economic Policy

IsraCast Assessment: Netanyahu's Decision Militates Against An Israeli Strike On Iran Before Early Election

Benyamin Netanyahu

 Israeli voters are going to an early election, probably some time in February. In a statement to the nation, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blamed his coalition partners for refusing to put their party interest above the national interest - they had refused to agree on drafting a responsible state budget. Netanyahu's decision had been widely expected and came as no surprise to the Israeli people. IsraCast analyst David Essing says the PM's announcement has implications for the current crisis with Iran - it is highly improbable that Netanyahu would press for an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear target's during an Israeli election campaign.

 Forget about a possible Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear weapons installations before Israeli voters go to the polls most likely in February. There is slim chance that Prime Minister Netanyahu will risk losing the election if something went badly wrong during an Israeli operation. (On this score, Newsweek and Foreign Policy are out of touch with Israeli reality when they report that Israel might strike Iran before the U.S. presidential election). In fact, Netanyahu had probably decided on an early election before he went to the UN General Assembly to say there was still time until spring or early summer to stop Iran from producing its first A-Bomb.

Iran and economic policy will be the main issues in the upcoming campaign. Netanyahu is credited and rightly so for galvanizing the international sanctions that may be crippling the Iranian economy. On the the other hand, his Likud party may be vulnerable on economic in wake of the social protest in Israel that has gained broad public support for a fairer share of the national pie.

Labor party leader Shelli Yachimovich has championed this cause and is now Netanyahu's closest rival. In the 120 member Knesset, the polls show Likud with some thirty seats with Labor trailing with twenty or so. Of course, these numbers are far below a majority of 61 and Netanyahu would still have to build a coalition. But once again he could horse trade with the other Right wing and ultra-orthodox parties to forge a deal. Why is that any different from now? Well if the various parties compromise on their demands before an election they would lose voters but after the election they can be more flexible in coalition negotiations.

But on the Iranian issue, it's no contest between Netanyau and Yachimovich who has absolutely no experience in security or foreign relations. This is her soft spot and it's huge - there's no way Yachimovich can be perceived waking up to cope with urgent telephone calls at two and three in the morning! And after Ehud Barak bolted Labor, the party has no 'heavy hitter' on security, at least not at present although Yachimovich might consider recruiting a retired Israeli general. For example, the former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who has been so vociferous in attacking Netanyahu and Barak. It will be fascinating to see if the social protest movement will find expression when matched against the Iranian conundrum. There is also the question of whether former Kadima prime minister Ehud Olmert can make a comeback despite all his legal problems. The current Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz has discredited himself by his farcical entry into the government and swift departure.

But when all is said and done, the polls have consistently indicated that the Right and ultra-othodox parties command a majority of no less than sixty-five seats. Naturally it's early days and Israel's political scene is no less tempestuous than America's.

David Essing

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