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    ‘Israel Very Likely to go For Early Elections in March’ – Scholar

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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that it would be unnecessary and wrong to call early elections in Israel. He also stated that he wanted to save the ruling coalition governing the country for another year.

    The Israeli PM's statements come on the heels of reports by Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post that a date for early elections would be agreed upon on Sunday by the heads of the coalition's parties.

    Radio Sputnik has discussed the possibility of early elections in the Middle Eastern country with Dr Emmanuel Navon, an International Relations expert who teaches at Tel Aviv University and at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya, Israel.

    Sputnik: Benjamin Netanyahu claims it is unnecessary and wrong to call for snap elections. What is your feeling? Is that the case?

    Dr Emmanuel Navon: Well, it is the wrong time for him because he knows that if the elections were to be held in the coming three months, it wouldn't bode very well for his prospects of being re-elected and the reason for that is that the ceasefire that he has agreed to with Hamas last week is extremely unpopular in Israel, especially among right-wing voters who are his electoral basis.

    And therefore if the elections were held, as I said, within the next three months, other political parties on the right, especially the party of Naftali Bennett the Jewish Home, and the party of Avigdor Lieberman Israel Our Home, would challenge him and challenge his credentials as Mr Security, and that might cost him very dearly politically.

    READ MORE: We Must Never Allow Legitimate Criticism of Israel to be Defined as Anti-Semitic

    Sputnik: Now we know that on record Mr Lieberman he is vociferous in his anger with regard to the current situation with the ceasefire with Hamas and he has also cited additional funding from Qatar to the Hamas group. Obviously, there are supporters of Mr Lieberman's position. Now Netanyahu also said he wanted to save the ruling coalition serving the country for another year. Is there a way for him to do so or is there too much pressure now being heaped on him and his government in terms of having to go to elections? Does he have any other options, Netanyahu, or is he safe for the time being?

    Dr Emmanuel Navon: In theory —yes, in practice —no. Why? Because since Lieberman pulled out from the coalition, the current government has a very short majority of 61 in Knesset out of 120 which technically is enough to hold the government together. However, with such a small coalition:  

    A) any member of the Knesset can blackmail the prime minister and refuse to vote together with the coalition.

    B) in order to happen majority you need all the members of the coalition to be in the Knesset in case all the members of the opposition show up to vote against the government which means that nobody can be overseas or just be home and be sick.

    It's nearly impossible to always have all the members of Knesset in parliament and therefore any legislation that would have to be passed by the majority would be almost impossible to pass. For those two reasons, it's very unlikely that the prime minister will be able to continue to govern and also two of his coalition partners, the finance minister and the education minister have already announced that they would rather have early elections and therefore dissolve the Knesset.

    READ MORE: 'Don't Test Us': Hamas Threatens to Hit Tel Aviv in Chilling Warning to Israel

    Sputnik: Well, we know manual politics is a very strange game. It changes from day to day, hour to hour. Are you saying that Netanyahu's position now as prime minister of Israel is coming to an end? Is that going to happen in the next month or the next few months? Is that the case? We are looking at a new potential leader now in Israel, are we?

    Dr Emmanuel Navon: Well, first of all, it is very likely at this point that Israel will go for early elections probably at the end of March. So far Netanyahu's position within Likud is not threatened. He will be the candidate of Likud for prime minister in the upcoming elections but then, of course, the question is what will be the outcome of those elections and that will decide the political future of Netanyahu.

    If the Likud wins a majority again then Netanyahu will stay in power even though, don't forget that there is also the question of his possible indictment, that the attorney general said he would decide on his indictment within the first three months of the year 2019. And therefore even if Netanyahu is re-elected he might be forced to resign in case of an indictment. And of course if Likud loses the election then, of course, Netanyahu will have to resign and there would be a leadership contest for Likud after Netanyahu.

    Sputnik: Now it's very interesting times in Israel. We know they are obviously having closer ties with the USA. We have got this ongoing issue with Hamas. It is a historical event that doesn't seem to want to go away. It is going to continue and continue. What does the future hold for Israel if a new prime minister comes into play because we know that Israel is also now gathering closer ties with the Muslim world in the Middle East? So, there is a lot of interesting things happening in Israel at the moment. There is also this rather continuous of these massive challenges with Palestine and their masters as well, so what does the future hold?

    Dr Emmanuel Navon: Well, whatever the outcome of the upcoming election is, the foreign policy and defence policy of the Israeli government will be pretty similar both in terms of fighting the threat of Hamas in the South, and of Hezbollah in Iran in the North and of trying to continue those close ties with the moderate Sunni Arab states of the Middle East.

    That would likely be the policy of any prime minister in the coming years whether it is Netanyahu or a possible successor. The only difference probably would be in the case of the relations with the Palestinians where a prime minister from a centre-left government might be more flexible on issues of negotiations and more forthcoming with a different approach than the one that has been adopted by Netanyahu for the past ten years.

    But that would be the only difference and again the outcome would depend obviously also on the Palestinian leadership. And we know that this leadership is very much divided between an ageing Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas terrorist organisation that controls the Gaza Strip.

    Views and opinions expressed in the article are those of Dr Emmanuel Navon and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik

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    early elections, election, parliament, Knesset, Hamas, Avigdor Lieberman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel
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