Sources Close to PM Netanyahu: No Elections Now, After All

YERUSHALAYIM -
Netanyahu Kahlon elections
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (R) and Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon. (Olivier Fitoussi/Pool)

After a dramatic weekend in which the talk in political circles was of imminent elections, sources close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday that he did not really intend to break up the coalition over the issue of whether or not to close down or extend the life of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, and whether or not to replace it with the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation. According to the sources, who are accompanying Netanyahu on his visit to China, “the issue is on its way to resolution.”

Earlier Monday, Likud MK and coalition chairman David Bitan told Army Radio that “a solution will be found, possibly even before the prime minister returns from China. We are working on this around the clock and we hope to complete matters as soon as possible.”

At issue is the replacement of the IBA with the IBC — a process that all agree has gone too far to halt at this point, despite the fact that Netanyahu, who had originally been in favor of shuttering the IBA, has since changed his mind. The current question is whether to retain all or the vast majority of IBA workers, either as part of the IBC or in the structure of the IBA itself, which would be ready to take over once the IBC was shut down, as Netanyahu was hoping.

The plan is opposed by Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon, and some in the Likud said that Netanyahu was taking advantage of the matter in order to “put Kachlon in his place.” Sources in the Likud said that Netanyahu sees Kachlon, with whom he has had a number of disagreements, as a burden, and undeserving of a position as prestigious as Finance Minister for such a small party — which, according to recent polls, is likely to shrink by as much as half if new elections were held now.

While several MKs and ministers, including Miri Regev and Yariv Levin, said they would be fine with elections, a straw poll of Likud MKs Sunday night indicated that 13 Likud MKs were opposed to breaking up the government at this time. The most vocal among them has been Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, who said he saw no reason for “wasteful and unnecessary elections at this time.”

A weekend poll by Maariv places the Likud as the largest party if elections were held now. The Likud would get 26 seats in the Knesset, compared to 22 for Yesh Atid. Based on the results of the poll, the Likud would still be the most likely party to build a new coalition if elections were held today. In addition, internal polls conducted by the Likud show that Netanyahu is currently “unbeatable” as a candidate for another term as prime minister — a factor that may have prompted Netanyahu to consider elections right now over the broadcasting flap.