After consulting with the various party leaders, the Prime Minister has set January 22nd as the date for elections, Yediot Aharonot and the Jerusalem Post have reported.
The bill which will disperse the Knesset and set the date for early elections will pass through the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday and be brought before the Knesset on Monday when it is set to return from the summer break, Yediot reported.
January 22nd comes just short of four years since the last election, which was held February 10th, 2009.
In his recent statement announcing early elections, Netanyahu had emphasized completing four years in office, but also said that elections should take place as soon as possible.
By law, early elections must take place at least 90 days after the Knesset disperses.
Last night Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he had decided to call early elections – that is, earlier than the scheduled date of October 2013. Though this was no shock as Israeli governments rarely finish their terms and there had been many reports in recent days that Netanyahu was considering early elections).
So for everyone who is trying to figure out what exactly is going on:
Date of Elections: January or February?
Netanyahu did not announce a specific date for the elections. The Knesset returns from its summer break on October 15th. By law there must be at least 90 days between the decision to disperse the Knesset and the date of elections.
At the end of his statement Netanyahu said it is preferable to have a “three month” campaign cycle than what would in practice be a year of campaigning until October 2013. Assuming that he would seek dissolution of the Knesset at the opening of the session — October 15th — that would put the elections at around or a little after January 15th.
However, Netanyahu also said at the beginning of his address that, “In a few months, we will finish the fourth year in office of the most stable government in recent decades.” Towards the end, he also said, “And therefore, after four years, we will go to elections.” Four years means elections after February 10th of next year, as that was the date the last elections were held in 2009. That meshes with earlier reports that Netanyahu desired a February 12th election in order to close a four year cycle.
According to Yisrael HaYom, negotiations between coalition partners began yesterday regarding the date of elections and sometime between January 15 and February 5th was discussed. According to the paper, which is considered friendly to Netanyahu, “the Prime Minister prefers the earliest possible date.”
The primary reason for the elections is the inability of the coalition to agree on a budget, or at least a responsible budget. Here’s what Netanyahu said:
Today, I finished a round of consultations with the heads of the coalition parties and I came to the conclusion that it is not possible at this time to pass a responsible budget. We are on the threshold of an election year, and to my regret, in an election year it is difficult for parties to place the national interest ahead of the party interest. The result of this is liable to be a budgetary breach and a massive increase in the deficit, which would very quickly put us in the situation of the crumbling economies of Europe. I will not allow this to happen here.
(The full text of Netanyahu’s statement can be found at PMO.gov.il.)
Why Early Elections: Maintaining the Lead
It is also surmised that early elections will ensure that the Likud maintains its current lead against all other parties. Two recent polls have given the Likud 28 mandates (Knesset seats) while it’s closest project rival, Labor, would receive 19 or 20 seats. Kadima which currently had 28 Knesset seats to the Likud’s 27, wouldn’t even break double digits.
Early elections mean surprises such as Ehud Olmert or other high profile figures joining parties like Kadima or Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid’s new party) and changing the political dynamic are less likely. It also gives other parties less time to put their campaigns together.
Following meetings with the heads of the parties in the coalition, Prime Minister Netanyahu will be holding a press conference at 8 PM in Jerusalem on Tuesday. It’s believed he will be announcing early elections, perhaps to be held as early as February 2013.
If Netanyahu doesn’t call for elections, then he needs to start preparing to pass the budget for 2013-2014, something that sources say has not been worked on seriously.
By holding early elections, Netanyahu will miss the historic opportunity to be the only Prime Minister in Israeli history to serve his entire term. On the other hand, by holding early election now, Netanyahu will be going into elections from a position of strength, and not hurt by the political damage trying to get the budget passed might cause him.
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to move the next Knesset elections from October to February, 2013.
The Israeli press has been featuring several leaks from Netanyahu’s inner circle on Tuesday and Wednesday regarding the approaching declaration of a February vote, although an official declaration is yet to made.
“We will make a decision by the opening of the winter session” of the Knesset, Netanyahu said on Tuesday. The winter session will start in two weeks.
Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz have been discussing a less severe clipping of the national budget, which was supposed to be trimmed by $3.9 billion. In light of the expected elections, they are likely to reduce the cuts to $2.6 billion.
“Over four years, we have responsibly managed the economy, reduced unemployment, protected growth and added hundreds of workplaces. We coped better than most countries in the Western world with the global economic crisis. For four years we acted as a responsible government and we must continue on this path,” the Prime Minister said, already sounding as if he is campaigning for his next term in office.
It is expected that the early vote will be scheduled for Tuesday, February 12. The last elections were held on February 10, 2009.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai from Shas said his party would rather not have the early elections.
“I told the prime minister that if the budget is passed with compassion, we will support it,” Yishai said, hinting at the need to avoid cuts that would hurt the needy segments of Israel’s population, adding: “We are prepared for elections at any given time, although Shas would be happy to continue its term for the year that remains.”
Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz of Kadima, who spent a short stint in Netanyahu’s coalition government this summer, said that “Netanyahu must be replaced and hope needs to be returned to the people of Israel.”
Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich said that setting an early date for the national elections, because “Israel needs elections to decide between different alternatives and to reset the country’s path.”
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) told Israel Today: “In my opinion, the prime minister does not have a majority to approve a national budget… There is no majority in the coalition to approve the cuts. Without a budget, the government cannot continue to function and therefore there will have to be early elections.”
Surprising everyone, but mostly its own rank and file, the largest Presbyterian group in the United States on Thursday rejected by only a razor-thin margin a proposal to divest from three companies that do business with Israel. (IUpdate: As we go into Shabbat in Israel, there are rumors about a motion to reconsider).
“After two hours of debate and presentations Thursday night (July 5), the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) said no to divestment as part of its position on peace in the Middle East.”
After the second vote on Monday, in which Resolution 15-10 to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions had easily passed , anti-Israel advocates were certain that the divestment (BDS) proposal, Resolution 15-10, was going to easily pass in the third and final vote, and took a major hit when the proposal failed in a 333-331 vote with 2 abstentions.
On Thursday, one Caterpillar employee “choked up”during the debates as he defended his company from the calls to divest from it.
[Divestment by the Presbyterian Church] would be a historic and valuable victory for the growing global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
But the crown jewel of the BDS drive organizers, the Israel Palestine Mission Network, is their proud list of bone fida Jewish organizations and individuals who have made the economic strangling of Israel their highest goal.
Rebecca Vilkomerson, writing for Jewish Voice for Peace, celebrated the “biggest U.S. victory yet for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement,” as “over the objection of Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), pension giant TIAA-CREF’s Social Choice Funds have divested from Caterpillar.”
Except that their claim of BDS success at TIAA-CREF is a false boast. IAA-CREF decision was based on a downgraded rating given by MSCI ESG Research.
MSCI ESG Research stated:
“[They have] assessed this [Israel-Palestinian] human rights controversy since 2004. This controversy has been incorporated in the rating since then and, as such, did not trigger the ratings downgrade in February 2012.”
Meanwhile, so-called Rabbis Margaret Holub, Brant Rosen, Alissa Wise, Julie Greenberg, Michael Feinberg, Michael Davis, Rachel Barenblatt, Lynn Gottleib, Laurie Zimmerman, Rebecca Alpert, Joseph Berman, David Mivasair, Borukh Goldberg, Meryl Crean, Howard A Cohen, Mordechai Liebling, Elizabeth Bolton, Everett Gendler, Michael Lerner, and Leonard Beerman, sent an “Open Letter to the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA)”:
We are aware that the Jewish Council on Public Affairs (JCPA) has unleashed a powerful campaign to dissuade you, and consequently dissuade the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) from moving forward with their well-considered divestment campaign…
As Jewish leaders, we believe the JCPA’s stance against church divestment does not represent the broader consensus of the American Jewish community. There is in fact a growing desire within the North American Jewish community to end our silence over Israel’s oppressive occupation of Palestine…
…However, even if the American Jewish community were unanimously opposed to such phased selective divestment by your Church – which is not at all the case – we believe it is still important that you move forward with the thoughtful multi-year process which your Church has begun.
And Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, also from the Jewish Voice for Peace, wrote in June that the reason for supporting the boycott on companies doing business in Israel is because:
Most Jews and Christians are not willing to go to Palestine to personally resist Israeli policies of land conﬁscation, home demolition, destruction of trees and property, military invasion, denial of freedom of movement, administrative detention or the arrest of children through nonviolent protest. Most Jews and Christians do not travel to Israel to work for an end to the blockade of Gaza and are not shot when they try to harvest their wheat or ﬁsh in the sea.
The list of Jews willing to distort history, reality, facts, and context, in service of the enemies of Israel is astonishingly long, and, not surprisingly, there is no discernible difference in style or approach between the anti-Israeli statements made by Arabs and by these Jews.
Except that, once again, like in the divestment battle in the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church, the BDS movement did not have a victory to claim.
But the battle is not over in the Presbyterian’s Middle East committee:
“The Assembly’s work continues on Middle East issues on Friday. The committee’s recommendations to boycott all products that are made in occupied Palestinian territory and sold by Israeli companies and to not use the word “apartheid” to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are two of the items that will be considered.”
In the meantime, a more bland and unbiased proposal replaced the BDS proposal, and it easily passed by 369-290 with 8 abstentions, recognizing “the tragedy of the situation in Israel and calls for engagement at all levels of society for a solution (to the Israel-Palestine conflict).”
Incidentally, the Assembly voted 572-127 to approve a recommendation on the “peaceful engagement of Iran regarding the potential of nuclear weapons.”
We assume they’ll send them flowers.
Finally, these young Jews, at least one of them baptized Christian, advocate the BDS message with a cheerfulness and self assurance (as many of them read from a script to the side of the camera) that must keep their grandparents in excellent physical shape as they roll over in their graves…
The David Project wants you to stop reacting. No more counter-protests, counter-programs, or counter-anything. No more of this ‘ARM’ business, with its focus on addressing and reframing; it’s all about the M, the message. Nothing negative. The David Project is all about the message.
It’s a perspective that is new for an organization that has been known as an aggressive force on campus. But as campuses empty for the summer, The David Project is reflecting on a year of new beginnings.
The Boston-based group took the pro-Israel community by surprise this year when it released a report in February titled “A Burning Campus? Rethinking Israel Advocacy at America’s Universities and Colleges.” The report, or “white paper,” outlined a significant departure from the organization’s divisive and hard-line history.
Under the leadership of Director David Bernstein since 2010, the organization has made an about-face on the issues that defined its past strategy: No more aggressive tactics against anti-Israelism on campus because, the group now says, it is counterproductive.
“In the past a ‘win’ was viewed as a perceived defeat of the … Israel detractors on campus,” said Bernstein. “Today, we don’t define our success in terms of the detractors but in terms of moving the discourse in a positive direction. That is definitely a major change in paradigm.”
For example, if confronted with a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference, The David Project of old would probably publicly challenge the organizers, said Bernstein. But doing so, he explained, only would serve to ratchet up the conference’s exposure. “We’ve learned from the past,” he said
It’s a change that took hold of The David Project a year prior to the release of “Burning Campus,” said Bernstein, pointing out that when it comes down to numbers, true anti-Israelists represent a tiny, dedicated minority of students who exert little influence on the general student body.
“Attacking the other side will do very little to bring [anti-Israelists] down, their numbers are already low. Our real task was building Israel’s reputation up,” he said.
Evan Herron, a junior at Temple University, exemplifies The David Projects new strategy. With an organized and strong Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) presence, Temple University plays host to a number of anti-Israel events per year.
But while at a David Project retreat in February, Herron was educated not in bringing the fight to SJP; rather, he learned skills in networking and relationship building. He went back to campus and organized a leadership dinner attended by the presidents or representatives of over 20 student groups; they went on to sign letters of support for a strong relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
“We put on the leadership dinner as a response but not in a responsive manner,” Herron said, echoing the David Project’s newfound sense of nuance when it comes to dealing with Israel’s perception on campuses.
It’s this type of subtle strategy that Bernstein hopes will signal a shift in how students view Israel’s image on campus: The best way to help Israel is to reach out to “diverse segments of the campus community,” Bernstein said.
“It’s got to be systematic,” he said. “It starts with students mapping out their campuses to understand the diverse sources of leadership, and then reaching out to them and finding ways of building long-term ties that raise understanding of Israel. There’s no one size fits all, but engaging the process in the long term can produce great results.”
Spreading the David Project’s new gospel are individuals like Jason Horowitz, the organization’s Midwest coordinator. One initiative he witnessed succeed is the distribution of coffee gift cards to pro-Israel students — the goal is to spur pro-Israel groups to take members of other student organizations out for coffee and, hopefully, build relationships between the groups.
He recalled that a student at Michigan State University used just that strategy to take the president of the black student union out for coffee, eventually co-sponsoring a Jewish Hearts in Africa event together.
“I think what we’re doing is really dynamic,” Horowitz said. “We’re taking things in a really positive direction.”