General elections could be held as early as August, according to political sources. The time slot being considered ranges from the end of August to the beginning of November, which is when the United States will be electing its next president.
As the Knesset's summer session opens on Monday, it seems the focus will be setting a date for the elections. Over the past few days, the question of whether there would be elections this year has been replaced with the question of when this year they should take place.
Here is a rundown of how the largest Israeli political parties are gearing up for the likelihood of early general elections.
Likud – Activists say they will reach 50 seats
Likud is relying on polls that repeatedly show that it is expected to win the upcoming elections by a large margin, alongside worries that early elections may hurt the party's standing. Political sources estimated on Sunday that Netanyahu is interested in a snap election that will take place before the High Holidays, although it is possible that they will be delayed to a later time.
Activist Eli Neger said "we want elections. Can anyone beat Netanyahu?" Likud activist who arrived Sunday to a party meeting expressed satisfaction from the potential of early elections, and expected the Likud to win more than 50 seats. Shlomo Madmon, a party member, is looking forward to the party's probably quantum jump. "When we get 45 mandates, we will be able to control all the governmental posts," he said. Many Likud MKs, which were elected as district representatives in the previous elections, will have to compete in a country-wide list, a change that will make the party primaries all the more competitive.
Labor – No money for polls
Israel's Labor Party is enthusiastic about the upcoming elections, as different polls forecast that the party will significantly increase its number of seats in the Knesset. Party leader Shelly Yachimovich constantly announces that she is ready for elections - only last week did the party organize a meeting over its ideology with a show of force of over a thousand activists, which passed the afternoon with discussions over party principles.
Yachimovich announced on Sunday that the party is currently working on organizing its campaign headquarters, which will be backed up by 70 smaller associate campaign headquarters, which will be mostly run by volunteers. The party is in debt of more than NIS 50 million, which will likely affect the handling of the campaign. "We don't have a dime for polls," said one party member.
Kadima – Worried over summer elections
For Kadima, the elections are arriving slightly too early. Party members would have preferred that they take place during October or November, even if principally they are interested in early elections. The date Mofaz suggested (October 16) will allow the party to try and make economic gains, as well as gains in the polls. However, current polls show that the party will potentially lose half of its mandates, which will also significantly affect its economic future.
In addition, party members are still waiting for Tzipi Livni's decision over whether she will stay in Kadima. The party has begun talks with other opposition parties, and has already had internal discussions regarding a date for its upcoming primaries. Kadima MKs clarified that they are expecting the election date to be determined between the coalition and the opposition, as had been done previously.
Yisrael Beiteinu – Lieberman in the crosshairs
Yisrael Beiteinu maintains stability in the polls. The fact that the party does not hold internal elections, and that the party list is determined by the chairman and an elections commission makes the preparations for the general elections easier in comparison to other parties. The most significant question facing the party has t do with the legal procedures against party leader Avigdor Lieberman.
The procedures have taken place in the last several months, and should they be resolved in a plea bargain, Lieberman may end up retiring after one term, which may well end in the upcoming elections. The latest polls show that Yisrael Beiteinu is maintaining strength in terms of mandates, although things may change should the Likud fortify its position and other parties rise as potential coalition partners.
Lieberman said on Friday that his party is no longer obligated to the coalition, and is currently trying to lead the discussion over the drafting of the ultra-Orthodox into the IDF.
Atzmaut – On the threshold
The Atzmaut party is not at all interested in early elections. MK Einat Wilf said yesterday that "we are preparing and will continue to prepare, but we will not push for early elections as we are not interested in them." After months of speculation over whether party members would be guaranteed places on the Likud Knesset list, the party has stated that it seeks to run on a separate list, after a backlash from Likud MKS and members.
The latest polls show that the party has been able to reach the threshold which would allow it to compete in the elections. Atzmaut members are sure that after passing the threshold, its electoral base is sure to grow. The party will not hold elections, and it is believed that chairman Ehud Barak will have the final say on the party list.
Yair Lapid – 10,000 volunteers
Over the past couple days, Yair Lapid has submitted a request to register his new party "Yesh Atid." According to Lapid, the submission is another step in the fulfillment of the goal he set for himself – establishing a strong and significant political force which will bring about a change in the priorities of the country and will give a voice to the middle class.
Lapid's submission came attached with a list of the party's eight goals. The first of which is a change in national priorities, by putting an emphasis on the day-to-day life of the citizens; a change in the system of government, equality in education and military service; a war on corruption; economic growth and efficiency, including a lowering of the cost of living and a reduction in housing prices; passing an education law in cooperation with teacher organizations, cancelling most bagrut examinations, and granting more autonomy to schools; proposing a constitution that will deal with the tense relationships between all groups in the country; striving for a peace agreement based on the two-state solution, while maintaining the large settlement blocs and a guarantee that Israel will remain a state with a Jewish majority.
According to Lapid, him and his supporters were able to "establish the "Yesh Atid" party, because the Israeli middle-class, the working and creative sector which pays taxes and serves in the military, has no voice and no one that will protect the interests that matter most to it: education, health, transportation, housing, the war on corruption and the rising cost of living." According to Lapid, at least 10,000 supporters have joined the campaign.
Shas – Will Aryeh Deri join the race?
Shas, along with United Torah Judaism, is taking part in the process of early elections, but will do everything in order to delay it until after the holidays in September. Rabbis are likely to make it difficult to allow yeshiva members to participate in the campaign.
The political forces are waiting to see what former chairman Aryeh Deri will do. Will he run on the same ticket as Shas, declare cooperation with his rival Eli Yishai, or perhaps will decide to run independently, in which case he would risk going against Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Deri's associates promise an answer in the coming days, although it may not be a decisive one. Ultra-Orthodox politics thrive on last-minute decisions, and it seems that the Deri saga will keep the system busy for the next couple of months.
Shas leader and Interior Minister Eli Yishai said on Sunday that his party is ready for elections. "Should the prime minister and foreign minister want elections, we will have no problem with that," he said. "This is the not the goal – the goal is the public. There is no party that is better prepared for elections than Shas." According to Yishai, the campaign began over a year ago, and is "full of hatred toward the Haredi sector."
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