Early elections could derail economic reforms
There is unanimity among politicians that the next elections will be held sooner rather than later - Netanyahu has already begun consultations with members of his cabinet and with the heads of other parliamentary parties.
Whether the end of the current government is brought about by economic issues such as the cost of living, political controversies over drafting ultra-Orthodox recruits or the demolition of unauthorized settlement outposts, there is unanimity among politicians that the next elections will be held sooner rather than later.
By law, they must be held by the fall of next year, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already begun consultations with members of his cabinet and with the heads of other parliamentary parties - including the new leader of the opposition, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz - about bringing the date forward.
Mofaz announced yesterday that elections should be held this year, in October. The Knesset's summer session opens today, and Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich is expected to introduce a Knesset motion tomorrow calling for the dissolution of parliament.
The prevailing thinking is that elections will probably be held this September or October. A fall election could cut short the summer session and complicate the passage of some of the economic reform proposals that Netanyahu has been touting.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has called for the Knesset to be dissolved as soon as agreement is reached on a date for elections. Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon predicted that, in any event, the current governing coalition could collapse if a solution is not found to the issue of settlement outposts.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is a major coalition partner, is awaiting a decision on a possible criminal indictment. He is thought to prefer resigning following a plea agreement and returning to the Knesset after new elections.
Although Netanyahu has declared his opposition to bringing the elections forward, he is still planning for the prospect. Within his current coalition, conflict over the criteria for housing benefits and whether they would favor the ultra-Orthodox could vex Netanyahu, as could the 2013 budget.
Concern over new protests
The prime minister is also said to be concerned that last summer's protests over the cost of living and other social welfare issues - which are expected to erupt again this summer - will erode his power.
Advisers in his Likud party are counseling that he move up elections. Along the way, they say Netanyahu should throw the public some bones, like lowering the price of gasoline rather than continuing to come in for criticism on the social welfare front.