Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to call Sunday night for elections September 4, more than six months before his term is to expire. Current polls show the opposition has no chance of forming a coalition.
Prime Minister Netanyahu concludes the seven-day mourning period for his father, Benzion Netanyahu, on Sunday
The popularity of the Prime Minister has been rising gradually over the past year while Kadima, the leading opposition party, has disintegrated. With newcomer Yair Lapid joining the political scene and the unpopularity of Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s leaving the Labor party, Prime Minister Netanyahu can sit back and watch the country’s urban-secular voters split their votes among at least four parties.
He also has the advantage of calling for an election weeks before the U.S. presidential election between President Barack Obama and de facto Republican candidate Mitt Romney. President Obama will be very careful not to repeat his former digs at the Israeli leader at the same time he wants Jewish contributions as well as the Jewish vote, which is in his favor but less so than in 2008.
The main issue currently is the draft system and exemptions for hareidi religious Jews, but it is unlikely that the topic can remain at the top of the public’s agenda until September. It will disappear altogether if legislation changing the current arrangement is passed this summer.
Israel’s growing economy, the increasingly mainstream media displeasure with the Palestinian Authority and the Iranian nuclear threat also work in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s favor.
However, another possibility – which may be promoted by Israel’s mainstream media opposition to a strong Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria – is an alliance with Kadima, Labor and Lapid’s new party, leaving all of the religious and nationalist parties out of the government for the first time in years.
However, that possibility is diminished by the strong nationalist flank of the Likud.
The current polls yield the following results:
Yisrael Beiteinu, 12-14
Future (headed by Lapid), 10-11
National Union and Jewish Home, 5-8
Arab parties, 10-11
The arithmetic gives Netanyahu a national-religious coalition of between 62 and 68 seats.