Israel looks to possible early election

AFP , Sunday 29 Apr 2012

Talk of an early vote in Israel is revived by Foreign Minister Lieberman who asks for fixing a date for the elections

Israel was buzzing on Sunday with the possibility of an early election after a key partner in the ruling right-wing coalition threatened to pull out, and the opposition called for an autumn vote.

Fresh speculation about an early general election came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fought off sharp criticism from a former top security chief over his policies on Iran's nuclear programme and on peace with the Palestinians.

Talk of an early vote, which has been in the air for several months, was revived by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who on Saturday said his Yisrael Beitenu party had exhausted its commitment to the coalition in a dispute over the issue of drafting Orthodox Jews into the army.

"I think that our obligation to the coalition is over," Lieberman told Israel's privately owned Channel Two television.

"There is also an obligation to the voter and, when the coalition is not prepared to compromise with us, we shall take decisions."

The country would only know whether or not it was heading for early elections "after May 9," Lieberman said, referring to the date when parliament is expected to discuss new legislation to replace the outgoing Tal Law, which allowed ultra-Orthodox Jews to defer their service in the Israeli military.

Lieberman's ultra-nationalist party, which is staunchly secular, is the second largest in Netanyahu's coalition after his own right-wing Likud, and it is the third-largest in parliament.

Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz said his centre-right Kadima party would move to dissolve parliament in the coming weeks if Netanyahu did not heed calls for an early vote.

"The days of Netanyahu's government are numbered," wrote Mofaz on his Facebook page on Saturday.

"I call for a general election to take place at the earliest possible date," he said, proposing they be held on Friday, October 16, and urging Netanyahu to set a date as soon as possible.

"If he doesn't, Kadima will move to dissolve parliament as early as next week," he warned.

The general election had been due to take place in autumn 2013.

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