Knesset and Likud: early changes leading to election

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 18, 2012
Netanyahu set to come out on top

Netanyahu set to come out on top

The Knesset voted unanimously on Monday night to dissolve itself and to hold Israel’s general election on January 22.

Since the polls currently indicate that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have little trouble forming another coalition of right-wing and religious parties and that his Likud will be the largest party in the next Knesset, the most important political event over the coming weeks will be the primaries for Likud’s parliamentary list.

The prime minister lost a valuable ally this week when Communications and Social Services Minister Moshe Kachlon announced he was retiring from political life.

Mr Kachlon, who has said in the past that he does not harbour prime ministerial ambitions, was seen by many as one of Likud’s most efficient and popular ministers, and was a staunch supporter of Mr Netanyahu. Without his ally, it will be more difficult for Mr Netanyahu to face down attempts by the far-right wing within Likud to gain top spots on the candidate list for the next Knesset.

The most anxiously awaited developments outside Likud are the potential comebacks of three senior politicians, foremost among them, former prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who was recently acquitted of serious corruption charges but convicted of the lesser charge of breach of trust.

Mr Olmert, who was forced to resign four years ago over the corruption probe, has been seen by many as the only figure who can unite the centrist camp. He has been considering whether to announce his return to politics — a number of leading Kadima parliamentarians have said that they would welcome him as party leader.

However, it emerged this week that the State Prosecutor intended to appeal against Mr Olmert’s acquittal in at least least one, and possibly both, of the two corruption cases.

With Mr Olmert still facing the Holyland bribery trial, it is becoming increasingly unlikely he will return to fight the 2013 election.

Kadima is currently the largest party in the Knesset but recent polls have it plummeting to a single-digit result were elections to take place today.

Another former Kadima leader contemplating a comeback is Tzipi Livni, who lost the party’s primaries to Mr Mofaz last year. Ms Livni has considered joining Labour, forming a new centre party or returning to Kadima. Mr Mofaz said: “I have always said that she can return at any time to lead actions against Netanyahu.”

Last updated: 4:45pm, October 18 2012