There is no reason for early elections, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said before departing for Washington Motzoei Shabbos. Quashing reports earlier that key members of his coalition were seeking to hold elections as early as June, Netanyahu said that “there is no reason for this, and with goodwill it will not happen. I have that goodwill, and I hope my coalition partners do as well. If we all work together there will be no need for elections, and we will all be able to work together and the government will complete its term in 2019.”
A report on Hadashot News earlier said that, in light of the various differences of opinion among coalition partners, especially surrounding the new law regulating army service for yeshivah students, it is unlikely that the coalition will be able to survive. Likud insiders, as well as sources in other parties, said that that they were preparing for the possibility of early elections.
Sources in the chareidi political establishment said that it was not their disagreements with the draft proposal that was forcing elections – but rather the insistence of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to bring the state budget for final Knesset approval, in light of declarations that they would not support the budget unless disputes on the draft law were resolved – as much a part of the coalition agreement as passing a state budget, they said. The sources, quoted on several media outlets, accused Kahlon of working together with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to create the coalition crisis.
Speaking Sunday, Economy Minister Eli Cohen, a Kulanu member, said that if the budget was not approved on time, his party would quit the coalition. “We will not allow the budget to become a tool for unwarranted demands. We will not play this game,” he said.
Speaking to Channel Ten, Deputy Minister Tzippy Hotovely suggested that all coalition partners “calm down.” The Likud, she said, “is not afraid of elections. We see a constant rise in support for us. It would be best for everyone if this government finished its term. There is no political crisis that cannot be resolved if everyone wishes to do so. I would especially recommend that the parties who are polling at the edge of eligibility for the Knesset and are likely to disappear if new elections are held reconsider and bring this crisis to an end.”
In a social media post, Culture Minister Miri Regev said that “I can tell all coalition members that Prime Minister Netanyahu is not seeking elections right now, but if he is forced into them, I can tell you that there is just one party that has nothing to worry about – the Likud. The public has a great deal of faith in our party. All the attempts to pressure the government into resigning will not work.”
A new weekend poll published in Yisrael Hayom shows that if elections were held now, the Likud would get 36 seats in a new Knesset – six more than it currently has. Yesh Atid would come in second with 23 seats, while Jewish Home, with 11 seats, would be the third largest party. Zionist Camp falls to 10 seats, as does the United Arab List. Also getting 10 seats would be United Torah Judaism, the most that party has ever polled. Shas, which has been teetering on the edge of political oblivion according to recent polls, makes it into a new Knesset according to the Geocartigraphia poll, garnering four seats. Meretz would get six seats, and both Yisrael Beytenu and Kulanu would come in with five.