Israeli Political Sources: General Elections Could Be Just a Few Months Away

Netanyahu says the issue of early elections 'would be clarified soon.'

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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, in Jerusalem April 28, 2012.
Avi Ohayon / Government Press Office

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw some more oil on the fire Sunday by saying the issue of early elections "would be clarified soon."

At the start of a Likud ministers' meeting, Netanyahu added: "There's an assumption that we're going to early elections, but there are no conclusions yet." According to him, the opposition factions are competing with one another in broadcasting how they are itching for elections even though this is not the case.

Political sources estimate that Netanyahu would prefer elections to be before the three-week fall holidays (which begins with Rosh Hashanah on September 17, and ends with Simhat Torah on October 8 ) or even as early as late August.

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat said that Netanyahu has been consulting with the coalition parties about moving up the elections, which officially are only scheduled for late 2013.

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"During this week and next week it will be decided when elections will take place," she said. "It could be October, or in September, before the holidays. It's no big drama."

She added that the prime minister had said clearly that he would not capitulate to blackmail, "and it would be better at this point to have elections." Thus she indicated the reason Netanyahu could give for his decision to advance elections - to rebuff blackmail attempts by his coalition partners.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told a Likud executive meeting Sunday: "If it's decreed that we must go to elections, the sooner the better." He said that elections should take place within 90 days, or after the holidays.

"It's not good to drag a political system into an 'in-between' situation, between a Knesset that can no longer make decisions and a new Knesset that doesn't know when it can start making decisions," he said.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has also issued threats regarding advancing elections. In a post on his Facebook page, he wrote that he has decided to put the interests of Yisrael Beiteinu voters ahead of maintaining the coalition.

Lieberman has previously said he would decide on early elections based on the result of a vote on a bill that would replace the Tal Law, which provides for ultra-Orthodox draft exemptions.

Both Labor and Meretz plan to submit bills to dissolve the Knesset. Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz of Kadima reiterated his call to hold elections as soon as possible after Sukkot, on October 16.