Key Parties Leave Opening for Netanyahu to Delay Presidential Election

The parties of Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett and Tzipi Livni have not yet made a decision.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Justice Minister Tzipi Livni at the Knesset on October 28, 2013.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni at the Knesset on October 28, 2013. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The leaders of three coalition parties declined to say Monday whether they would support postponing the presidential election by six months, leaving an opening for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push the idea through.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) declined to comment on the issue. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnuah) said she had yet to see a concrete proposal, and “if there’s ever anything concrete rather than just talk,” her party’s parliamentary faction would meet and make a decision.

Livni said her reticence did not imply consent. “I made clear that such a decision would be made only after a faction debate,” she said. “I’ll act strictly on the basis of substantive and constitutional considerations.”

A source in Habayit Hayehudi offered a similar response. “There’s no reason for us to present a clear position at the moment,” he said. “For now we can sit on the fence and examine Netanyahu’s proposal. Neither we nor Lapid have a candidate for president, so this war isn’t our war. We’ll let Netanyahu present a proposal and then we’ll decide.”

But opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) said Netanyahu’s office had asked him explicitly whether he would support a postponement, “and I said no immediately. I won’t let Israeli democracy be subordinated to the prime minister’s whims, and we’ll do everything we can to ensure that the election takes place on time.”

Meretz chief Zahava Gal-On also attacked the postponement idea, saying it “shamelessly trampled the little honor left to our democracy” and reflected “complete hysteria on the part of the prime minister, whose personal vengefulness is driving him out of his mind.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said that despite the media reports about a possible postponement, he planned to announce a date for the election next week after consulting all the declared candidates.

Netanyahu has tried to garner the coalition parties’ support for legislation that would delay the vote for President Shimon Peres’ successor by six months. In the meantime, a committee would be formed to review the need for the presidency and consider alternatives.

Peres’ term ends in July, so the election is expected to take place in June. The president is elected by the Knesset.

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