Netanyahu associate: No election in 2018

The chances of a general election being held in 2018 are fast approaching zero, sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday afternoon.

The sources spoke after United Torah Judaism threatened to leave Netanyahu’s government if a that is to UTJ’s liking is not passed soon. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu has issued counter-threats.

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“I don’t think the prime minister wants election,” a Netanyahu associate said. “He sees Liberman and the haredim climbing up tall trees, but he thinks initiating election on drafting haredim is wrong. It would be a present to [Yesh Atid leader] Yair Lapid, who is at a lowpoint and doesn’t have a campaign.”

In recent weeks there has been speculation that Netanyahu would take steps to initiate election this month, following positive headlines he received from US President Donald Trump’s decisions to cancel the Iran deal and move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Such a move could capitalize on Netanyahu’s good showing in recent polls and preempt Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s decision on whether to indict him on charges of bribery and breach of trust.

The date talked about as the only possibility for election is September 4 because election tend to not take place in the summertime when many Israelis go abroad, during fall Jewish holidays, or too close to the municipal election – which will be held on October 30.

September 4 falls on a Tuesday, after school starts but before the holidays, which are early this year. A bill to set a September 4 election would have to start being legislated immediately because it would have to pass into law by June 4.

The Knesset will be on recess in August and will not be around to initiate a December election. When it returns from its recess in October, the Knesset could set an election for January or February.

“Netanyahu was also doing well in the polls in March, when he could have initiated a June election, [which would have taken place] right after the [US] embassy and Iran decisions, and he didn’t,” the Netanyahu associate said.

“The prime minister prefers what he has in his hands to speculation. It’s better to start with low polls than to start with high polls and go down.”

Coalition chairman David Amsalem told the haredi station Radio Kol Chai on Tuesday that the Defense Ministry would soon finish its work on a new draft bill that will be presented to Netanyahu and the heads of his coalition factions.

“I am sure the new bill will balance between everyone’s needs,” Amsalem said. “If there will be arguments, an extension can be requested from the Supreme Court to complete the legislative process.”

In September 2017, the High Court of Justice overturned the government’s broad exemptions for full-time haredi yeshiva students from serving in the army, and told the government to pass a new law within a year.

In March, the coalition was in crisis over the matter, with Liberman insisting it only pass a law approved by the Defense Ministry. In an eventual compromise, the coalition voted for a Shas bill, which is supposed to be merged with the Defense Ministry bill Liberman agreed would be submitted by the month’s end.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.