By Tzvi Zucker
December 3–Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ruling Likud party have dissolved the current government, and Israel will be heading to early elections. Elections for the 20th Knesset are scheduled for March 17, 2015.
The ruling coalition had appeared shaky for the past few months, with friction over the 2015 budget and the Likud-proposed nationality law spilling into the news. Last-ditch reconciliation efforts between Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid ended in failure.
Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah Party, both center-left-leaning parties, had announced they would not support the “nationality bill” that Netanyahu’s Likud party wanted to pass. Similarly, Netanyahu did not agree with Finance Minister Lapid’s proposed 2015 budget or with a law proposed by his party that would allow first-time homebuyers to purchase apartments without paying VAT (value-added tax, currently at 18%).
Prime Minister Netanyahu had been complaining publicly since the beginning of the week that the discord in the ruling coalition was making it too hard to govern effectively.
Had the coalition not been dissolved, it is likely the government would have fallen anyway. If a bill comes to vote and a minister does not vote for it, he can be fired by the prime minister. It was expected that had the nationality bill come up for a vote, both Lapid and Livni would have voted against it, and Netanyahu would have fired them then.
One of the side effects of going to early elections is that all budgets are frozen at 2014 levels of spending. Planned increases in educational and defense spending will not be implemented, potentially hurting military preparedness and the school system.
Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition Labor Party, declared he believes he represents a viable alternative to Netanyahu, and hopes to be the one asked to form a government coalition by President Ruby Rivlin after the elections.
A poll conducted by Teleseker published on December 3 suggested Herzog was being very optimistic. Labor was slated to win 12 seats, down from the current 15. Likud was predicted to grow to 23 from 18. Naftali Bennet’s Habayit Hayehudi showed a remarkable gain, gaining 5 more seats and growing from 12 to 17.
A new party to be formed by Moshe Kachlon is predicted by the same poll to get 10 seats in the upcoming Knesset. Kachlon was the minister of communications when cell-phone prices were radically slashed, and he has embraced the subsequent reputation of being an advocate for lowering the cost of living in all market sectors. (Tazpit News Agency) v
By Tzvi Zucker