The Price Tag of an Election Nobody Wants

Chairman of the special committee on dissolution of the Knesset, Likud MK Miki Zohar. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman have been blaming each other for the coalition impasse, preparatory to blaming each other for another round of elections.

One of the main reasons is the prohibitive cost of such a rerun.

On Tuesday, Bayan Wattad of the Finance Ministry’s Budgetary Department told a Knesset committee: “The meaning of the bill [to dissolve the Knesset and go to elections]… is a cost of at least 475 million shekels., which requires a budgetary source that does not exist, and we are currently in a deficit,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

“The government must point to a budgetary source for this and it will only come from reducing government activity,” Wattad warned.

But that’s not all. Erez Tsur, chairman of the tech-industry umbrella group Israel Advanced Technology Industries, and Director-General Karin Mayer Rubinstein noted other, collateral costs. They estimated that the day off from work for an election would cost the Israeli economy 2 billion shekels in lost productivity, and condemned it as an “utter waste.”

“Holding additional elections would harm the stability of businesses in Israel and ease of doing business,” Tsur and Mayer Rubinstein said. “The international hi-tech world, which sees Israel as a global leader in the area, will see going to elections as one big farce.”

The repercussions for campaign finance were no less on the minds of the MKs at the special committee on the dissolution of the Knesset. Their parties must pay back loans taken out for the April elections before they can legally qualify for new loans for the September event, if it comes. Unless, that is, a delay can be arranged.

The total combined campaign debt of the parties stands at NIS 62.467m. The Likud tops the list, owing NIS 36m.

Knesset Accountant Chaim Avidor warned that the risk to the Knesset from increasing the loans would reach NIS 201m.

MK Ofir Sofer of the Union of Right-Wing Parties suggested that the loan payments be spread over 72 months instead of 36.

Blue and White MK Tzvi Hauser raised an objection: “If you give those who happened to already take 100 percent of the available loan [the chance to borrow more] you are giving them an advantage in this election and distorting the result.”

Likud MK Miki Zohar, chairman of the committee, framed the predicament: “We’re in a strange and incomprehensible situation, but it’s out of our control,” Zohar said. “We’re doing whatever we can to stop the evil decree with no success so far, and it looks like elections are approaching.”

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