Netanyahu Set to Officially Announce Early Israeli Elections

Announcement to take place at Likud conference which will launch the party's election campaign, and will include the introduction of new regulations to the party primaries scheduled for the week of June 10.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to officially call early elections tonight, when he delivers the keynote speech at the Likud conference.

The gathering will mark the beginning of Likud's election campaign, and will include the introduction of new regulations to the party primaries scheduled for the week of June 10.

Benjamin Netanyahu
Olivier Fitoussi

The changes touted by Netanyahu, will give more weight to candidates running on the national list than those representing different regions. The controversial reform, which has already met with opposition among Likud mayors and local leaders, is likely to give precedence to current MKs and help them save their seats.

Meanwhile, Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich said yesterday she would consider joining a Likud-led coalition only if she would be able to shape the government's agenda. Speaking to Channel 2 Television, she said that "only if Likud gets a relatively small number of seats and the possibility of creating a new agenda is at hand, we will consider such partnership. Other parties will rush to join a Netanyahu government at any cost."

Yacimovich also said that if she becomes prime minister she will immediately launch peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and nurture Israel's relations with Egypt and Turkey.

Kadima officials accused Yacimovich of coordinating her strategy with Netanyahu. "Yacimovich and Netanyahu are waging an orchestrated assault on Kadima," aides to party leader Shaul Mofaz said yesterday, adding that Kadima would no longer put up with it. "Yacimovich lacks the most basic experience in every field. At the end of the day, this is how it goes: vote Yacimovich, get Bibi."

In response to Yacimovich's remarks, a Likud official said that Netanyahu will turn to Mofaz and centrist candidate Yair Lapid before seeking partnership with Labor, because of her economic policies that are not in line with Netanyahu's.

"We have more in common with Mofaz and Lapid than [far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman," the official added, alluding to Likud's current partnership with Yisrael Beiteinu.

Also on the weekend, Lapid was criticized on his Facebook page for countenancing pornography in his weekly column in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. In response to media reports that al-Qaida encoded messages in pornographic films, Lapid suggested that "the [Israeli] military intelligence should set up a special unit to unveil these messages. I assume it won't be easy to find soldiers who would sit and watch porn all day, but if they need help they can always call me up."