Netanyahu to Consider Proposal to Cancel Upcoming Israeli Election, Party Says

A Likud initiative to cancel the September 17 election would likely be struck down by the Supreme Court ■ Premier denies he offered Kahol Lavan a rotation agreement ■ Gantz: There is no going back on Knesset dissolution

Netanyahu with Yuli Edelstein in Knesset, April 30, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed on Wednesday reports that he will consider an initiative to call off the September 17 election after it was proposed by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. 

The prime minister denied that he offered opposition party Kahol Lavan to form a rotation agreement, by means of which Likud and Benny Gantz's party will share the premiership. "At no point was a rotation [agreement] offered, to this point there is contact between the Likud and Kahol Lavan and I don't intend to give up on my natural partners to form a right-wing government," the premier said. 

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Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz also denied reports of a rotation agreement, and called Likud efforts to cancel the election "another spin from Netanyahu's house of cards."

In a press conference Wednesday, Gantz said "Netanyahu pressed the button to dissolve the Knesset, and there is no going back," adding that the do-over "redundant" election will take place as planned on September 17. Gantz also said that if there was a legal option to form a unity government excluding Netanyahu, he would seriously consider it.

Speaking this morning with Army Radio, Yuli Edelstein said that Knesset members from many factions approached him to discuss the election. "All the conversation ended with the same line: 'Wow, what a mistake we made.'" According to Edelstein, "this redundant election is not wanted, and we are definitely willing to see if there is a way through the current Knesset to set up a broader coalition." 

Edelstein, also a member of Likud, believes there is a legal mechanism that would permit calling off the election, but a proposal has not been put before Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon.

Sources familiar with the initiative told Haaretz on Tuesday that it is likely to be overturned by the High Court as it requires an amendment to Basic Law on the Knesset. A Likud source said Netanyahu would need to work to defend the bill in court if it does gets the majority needed, adding that Likud is trying to get 80 of the Knesset’s 120 members to support the bill, even though only 61 are needed, according to a source. 

The Knesset voted to dissolve itself last month, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition.