Israeli leader expected to declare early elections amid domesticturmoil, iran nuclear threat

JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce Sundaynight that he’ll dissolve parliament to hold early elections, amove designed to fend off domestic critics and perhaps put him in astronger position to act against Iran. His government — Israel’s most stable in years — couldhave remained in power until 2013. But coalition partners arechallenging Netanyahu on an array of domestic issues, including thebudget, drafting the ultra-Orthodox and pulling down unsanctionedsettlement construction. The Israeli leader might also fear that after U.S. elections,Washington will press Israel to refrain from attacking Iraniannuclear facilities or step up pressure to make peace with thePalestinians.

So he’s seeking a referendum on his leadership at atime when his popularity remains strong. Netanyahu is expected to announce the early elections at aconference of his Likud Party on Sunday night. Likud officials havesaid the expected election date will be Sept. 4.

Polls suggest Netanyahu’s re-election chances are good. His LikudParty is expected to win at least one-fourth of parliament’s 120seats to become the legislature’s largest faction, which wouldposition him to become prime minister for a third term. He firstserved in the late 1990s. What the polls don’t show is what kind of future government hemight head. If voting breaks down as the surveys indicate,Netanyahu might be able to put together a more centrist coalitionthan his current government, which takes a hard line on peacemakingwith the Palestinians and has submitted bills designed to punishgroups that disagree with Israeli policy on issues like settlementsand wartime conduct. PTZ CCTV Camera

The prime minister signaled in December that he might move up thevote when he called a snap Likud leadership race that he handilywon. Early elections talk heated up last week, but an announcement wasput off as Netanyahu mourned the death of his father. Netanyahu wasending the seven-day Jewish mourning period on Sunday. Over the weekend, several Israeli commentators said a possibleIsraeli strike on Iran drove Netanyahu’s quest for early balloting. They reasoned that holding the vote before the U.S. China IR CCTV Cameras

presidentialrace in November would give Netanyahu an opportunity to order anattack in September or October, at a time when President BarackObama would be reluctant to publicly criticize him for fear ofalienating the Jewish vote. Netanyahu aides do not discuss the prime minister’s thinking onIran. Israel, like the West, thinks Tehran’s nuclear programultimately is designed to make bombs, and not just for peacefulpurposes like electricity generation and medical isotopes, as Iranclaims. The ostensible pretext for elections was Foreign Minister AvigdorLieberman’s veiled threat last week to bring down the government ifparliament doesn’t act to apply Israel’s compulsory military draftto ultra-Orthodox men over the objection of ultra-Orthodoxlawmakers. Both Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu and ultra-Orthodoxparties sit in Netanyahu’s coalition. China Bullet CCTV Cameras

Another divisive issue is an Aug. 1 deadline for the government todismantle an unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost over theobjection of hard-line coalition allies and settlers. Mass protests also are expected for the second summer in a row overIsrael’s high cost of living.

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