Six possible reasons why Netanyahu called a snap election

Newspaper analysis says prime minister wants to delay moves by his attorney general and U.S. President Trump.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

There could be six reasons why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided that now is the time for Israel to go to an early parliamentary election, according to an analysis published in the Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday.

The article followed an announcement by the government coalition on Monday that a decision was reached to call an early election for April. Under Israeli law, a full term would have meant that Israelis would go to the polls in November 2019. The speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, said that April 9th is the likely date for the snap election.

The move would become official through legislation, which is expected to be completed by the end of Wednesday’s parliamentary session.

Among the reasons that Netanyahu wants an election now is his popularity, says Aluf Benn, who is editor-in-chief of Haaretz. A second reason is that the political opposition is “decimated.”

His article also cites investigations into alleged corruption by the prime minister, and the reports that the attorney general is expected to make a decision during the coming weeks or months on whether Netanyahu should face indictment. According to the analysis, the Israeli leader hopes that a snap election will delay the attorney general’s announcement.

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The common wisdom is that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit wishes to announce his conclusions before the national ballot. But if prolonged legal deliberations cause his announcement to bump up too closely to the elections, it’s expected he would declare Netanyahu’s fate only afterwards.

Another move that Netanyahu wishes to delay, according to Benn’s view, is an unveiling by President Donald Trump of a Middle East peace plan. U.S. officials have repeatedly spoken of a plan in the works, but have closely guarded its contents.

Netanyahu and Trump are seen as close allies, with the president moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement, but Trump has stated that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians will be totally happy with his peace plan.

The Haaretz analysis also refers to what might be Netanyahu’s concerns that while there has been economic growth in Israel since he returned to power in 2009, “the economic winds are shifting.”

Finally, the paper cites as a sixth possible reason why the prime minister has opted now for an early ballot is that he wishes to “refresh” the majority of his own Likud party and coalition partners in the Knesset. That majority became razor thin, 61 in the 120-seat parliament, when MK Avigdor Liberman resigned as defense minister in November and took his party out of the coalition.

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The slim majority has made it very difficult for the government to function in parliament, with a Likud MK even rushed out of hospital recently to get to parliament in time for a vote.