Israel will be voting for a new Knesset in the coming months. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday night announced his intention to disband the Knesset and hold new elections to take place within three months. As such, Netanyahu will be leaving office several months before his term is up.
The main reason for early elections, Netanyahu said, had nothing to do with serious security matters such as how to deal with Iran or jump-starting negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Rather, he said it was very unlikely that the current government would be able to pass a budget, as required by law.
"For the state of Israel, it is preferable to have a short election period of three months than a long election campaign which would last a whole year, and hurt Israel's economy," he said.
Several parties in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition, particularly Shas, are demanding more funding for social programs, while Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz say that major cuts in the budget are necessary in order to keep Israel solvent.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday night, Netanyahu said that while the government was strong and had successfully steered Israel during a serious security situation while enabling the country to avoid the worst effects of the worldwide recession, the time had come for elections. “We must continue to ensure the continued security of Israel, both defensive and financial,” he said.
"My duty as prime minister is to put the national interest before everything, and so I've decided that for the good of Israel we must go to an
election now as fast as possible," he said, without giving a specific date.
After discussing the budget issue with his coalition partners, Netanyahu said, he had decided that it would be “impossible” to arrive at a compromise on the outstanding issues. If the government were to accede to demands of its coalition partners, he said, “Israel would face the same problems as Europe, and I will not allow this to happen.”
Netanyahu said that he hoped the elections would take place within a few months of his announcement, since Israel would find it difficult to sustain a long, drawn out campaign. “For the good of the nation, I have decided to call for new elections,” Netanyahu added.