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Will Netanyahu Call Early Elections?

Netanyahu and Obama meet

Rumors have begun to circulate that Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu has decided to dissolve his government and call for early elections in September 2012. An article published in the Los Angeles Times Sunday suggested that Netanyahu’s recent call to expedite the Likud primaries was the first step in bringing early elections.

The idea that Netanyahu would want to call for early elections may sound odd to some, considering he is enjoying coalition stability and solid approval ratings, both rarities in Israel’s treacherous political landscape. But Netanyahu is thinking ahead. It is because of – and not despite – his current political stability that he would want to assure his next four years in office sooner rather than later.

The most important date on Netanyahu’s calendar is November 6, 2012, the day of the US Presidential election. Conventional wisdom suggests that if Obama wins reelection for his second and final term, he will lean heavily on Israel to consummate a peace deal, unrestrained by domestic politics and election considerations.

In pushing national elections forward, Netanyahu would hope to ride the wave of his current popularity into another four years of office, and his renewed mandate will precede a possible Obama reelection by two months. Capitalizing on his current popularity would also result in an upgrade of his mandate to an expanded one, which would be crucial if Netanyahu has to face the unrelenting pressure of a rejuvenated US president.

To be sure, the next few years promise to be critical for Israel, with the fate of Iran’s nuclear program and the aftermath of the ‘Arab Spring’ among its top concerns. Netanyahu undoubtedly wants to lead Israel through these travails, but to do so he will have to shrewdly assess the political risks and determine the best time to consolidate his political capital.

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