Avoiding Early Elections Is Good for Netanyahu, Bad for the Country

It seems the Israeli public has become accustomed to the fact that the future of the government depends on the personal needs of the prime minister

File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at The Prime Minister's Israeli Innovation Summit in Tel Aviv, Israel October 25, 2018.
REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want early elections. This is despite the fact that Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned and Israel Beiteinu is leaving the government; Habayit Hayehudi chairman, Naftali Bennett, is willing to remain only in return for the defense portfolio; and Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon and Shas head Arye Dery are in favor of holding elections as soon as possible.  

It seems the Israeli public has become accustomed to the fact that the future of the government depends on the personal needs of the prime minister, whether these are his legal, electoral or political needs.

Netanyahu wants to set the date for the next election according to his assessment of when Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit will decide whether to file an indictment in two of the corruption investigations against him –  Case 1000 and Case 2000 – for which the police have already submitted their recommendations – as well as Case 4000, which is still awaiting police recommendations. 

Netanyahu’s considerations are legal: Is it worth rushing to elections before Mendelblit decides and, in doing so, put pressure on him so that he will be in no hurry to file an indictment against a newly reelected prime minister despite the accusations against him?

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And of course, an electoral consideration exists: If Mendelblit announced his intention to file an indictment, after a hearing, will that be good or bad for Netanyahu?

We must add the appointment of a new police chief  to the list of Netanyahu’s deliberations. If the Knesset dissolves before the appointment is made, the cabinet will become a transitional government that cannot approve the appointment of Maj. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Edri, which has stalled due to complaints of improper behavior. The term of Roni Alsheich, who Netanyahu loathes, ends on December 3, and Netanyahu does not want to risk something going wrong with  Edri’s appointment.

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Netanyahu also wants to delay the elections because it is important to him to lower the electoral threshold beforehand, apparently because he believes that a larger number of parties will be good for Likud. And let us not forget the “Gideon Sa’ar Law,” which is supposed to obligate the president to confer the task of forming a new government on the Knesset member who is a party head, who received the recommendations of the other parties that represent the largest number of MKs – in other words, in the case of Likud, only Netanyahu.   

In addition, Netanyahu does not want to be seen as someone who is being dragged into early elections by his partners. And he wants to give his voters time to overcome any disappointment over what they view as the “weakness” he displayed in deciding on the cease-fire in Gaza.

This list of Netanyahu’s considerations over the future of the government has no link, not even indirectly, to the good of the country. Instead of Israel’s interests dictating a fateful decision such as the dissolution of the government, the entire political system is subordinated to the needs of its leader. This is intolerable. We must hold elections as soon as possible.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.