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Elections: Netanyahu Outfoxes Everyone

Netanyahu checkmated every other political party and is likely to remain Prime Minister and even a stronger one after the elections.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 10/10/2012, 4:25 PM

 Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
AFP/Pool/File

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu checkmated every other political party and is likely to remain Prime Minister and even a stronger one after the elections.

He announced Tuesday night that that he calling elections within the next three months in light of the probability that he would be forced to do so anyway given the demands made by coalition parties towards the next budget.

By holding elections now instead of being forced to do so, Netanyahu enjoys the best of all possible worlds. His move gives him the image of displaying  leadership and preventing a government crisis and lack of faith in  the economy. Given the polls that show his Likud party with a commanding plurality, he will form the next government with the upper hand because no party will be able to threaten him to go to the polls if he does not agree to monetary requests.

Barring a major change in the current Knesset coalition lineup, any party that threatens not to stay in the coalition will have to face the futility of begging favors from leftist and center-left parties, for whom nationalist and religious parties are an anathema.

Opposition parties privately admit that the only person they view as possible coalition leader is none other than former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who recently was fined and given a probated jail sentence for a criminal conviction. He has not yet decided whether to give in to pressure from Kadima to head the party, which has been virtually disintegrated in the polls. It now has 28 Knesset seats and is projected to end up with less 10.

The elections are expected to take place in January or February instead of  October 2013, when the current term officially ends.

Even the harshly anti-Netanyahu left-wing Haaretz newspaper admitted in a poll last month that the current coalition would retain its present strength if elections were held at the time.

The results of the poll give the national camp 64 seats, but nationalist leaders have claimed that the Jewish Home-National Union merger has won more support since the poll.

The current Knesset strength is in brackets:

28 [27] Likud
20 [13] Labor
14 [15] Yisrael Beiteinu
11 [11] Shas
08 [28] Kadima
08 [---]  Future (Lapid)
07 [05] United Torah Judaism
06 [07] Jewish Home/National Union  
05 [03] Meretz
11 [11] Arab parties
02 [---] Ehud Barak Independence Party

The Likud’s coalition partners are the Shas and United Torah Judaism religious parties, the nationalist Yisrael Beytenu party headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak's breakaway Independence party, and the nationalist Jewish Home party.

Barak split from the Labor party, and polls show that his new party may not win enough votes to enter the next Knesset, a situation that would be a blessing to nationalists and probably to Netanyahu. The two leaders have been the “odd couple,” with Barak undermining Netanyahu’s position by patronizing the Obama administration and by posing obstacles to the development of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

The Jewish Home plans to run with the National Union party, which is not in the coalition.

The wild card is Yair Lapid’s new Future party. He is a faint hope for the center-left and left-wing parties, as well as mainstream media, but many journalists also despise him because of his charisma coupled with an ability to take both sides of several issues.

Labor party Shelly Yechimovich has managed to unite the splintered factions since Barak’s departure but lacks broad support for a dramatic gain in the Knesset.

The religious parties have constantly disproved polls that show them losing seats and traditionally retain their current strength, give or take one seat in the Knesset. The rest of the Knesset representation is taken by predominantly Arab parties, which usually win between nine and 11 seats.