Israeli Opposition Parties Demanding Early Elections

Israel elections
Zionist Camp MK Isaac Herzog speaking in the Knesset, Monday. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Just when days of tension over a threatened breakup of the coalition had finally eased, opposition parties began agitating on Monday evening for a vote to dissolve the Knesset and go to early elections.

Yesh Atid and Meretz are asking Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to allow a vote this week to dissolve the Knesset, the formal step prior to calling new elections.

Ironically, it was the coalition’s success in formulating a compromise military draft bill for a preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday that supplied the parliamentary loophole for the opposition maneuver.

Normally, protocol prevents a first vote on new legislation in the last week that the Knesset sits; and since summer recess begins on Thursday, a bill for dissolution could not be introduced.

However, in a letter to Edelstein, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg and Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelach contended that the new military draft bill changes that.

“Voting on the conscription bill will be an exception to the general rules and the same exception should be made for the opposition,” they wrote.

Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had mocked the opposition parties from the podium of the plenum:

“I’ve never seen such a thing, an opposition that is afraid of elections,” he said. “An opposition that wants the government to keep serving.”

Israel elections
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud), right, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) at the Knesset, Monday. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Opposition members were indignant. Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni, who stepped to the podium right after Netanyahu, accused him of ulterior motives:

“You want elections before the public knows the truth about your personal corruption, before people who know you and worked with you and know what you did say the whole truth,” Livni charged. “To hide the truth, you will once again pull out from your pocket the hatred and the persecution that you normally use to incite one against his brother. You feed off the hate you sow.”

MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Camp) tweeted that Netanyahu’s accusation was false, and saying his party already submitted a proposal on Monday morning, before the prime minister’s speech, to dissolve the Knesset and hold elections.

The charges and counter-charges quickly led to angry shouting, and Deputy Minister Yaron Mazuz (Likud) was ejected from the hall after yelling, “Shame on you, go home!” at the opposition MKs.

After his speech, Netanyahu met with Edelstein.

Meanwhile, the latest polls showed that Netanyahu’s Likud party stood to win a sweeping mandate if elections were held now.

According to Hadashot, he would be reelected with 30 seats, the same as it has in the current Knesset, and his best showing in any recent poll.

Yesh Atid would get 21 seats, almost doubling its present size. In a distant third place was Zionist Camp with 13 (24 currently), Joint (Arab) List 12 (13), Jewish Home 11 (13), Meretz 7 (5), United Torah Judaism 7 (6), and Kulanu 6 (10).

Orly Levy-Abekasis, an independent, was projected to take 5 seats, ahead of her former party Yisrael Beytenu with 4 (5) and Shas 4 (7).

A Channel 10 survey, also published Monday night, gave Likud 29 to Yesh Atid’s 24.

That survey found Joint List would win 13 seats, Zionist Camp 11, Jewish Home 11, Meretz 9, Kulanu 6, Yisrael Beytenu 6, UTJ 6 and Shas 5.