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2013 Election

On 09 October 2012 Netanyahu called for early elections, capitalizing on a wave of popularity for his Likud Party. He said he was forced to form a new government because the current coalition was not able to agree on a budget for 2013. Netanyahu said "We are on the threshold of an election year, and to my regret, in an election year it is difficult for parties to place the national interest ahead of the party interest.... my obligation as Prime Minister is to put the national interest above everything and therefore, I have decided that the good of the State of Israel requires going to elections now, as soon as possible. The State of Israel would prefer a short election campaign of three months over what, in effect, would be a long election campaign that would continue for an entire year."

The elections for the 120 seats in Israel's single-chamber national assembly, the Knesset, took place on 22 January 2013, about eight months ahead of schedule, moved up from October 2013. Exit polls in Israel showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party winning a narrow victory after a surprisingly strong showing by centrists. Prime Minister Netanyahu offered to form a broad coalition with centrist Yesh Atid as its main coalition partner, along with the Likud party's natural right-wing partners. Israeli Netanyahu was expected to win a mandate for a tougher stance on Iran's nuclear program. But Netanyahu's Likud party, running in combination with the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu group, wound up with fewer seats than in the previous parliament. Netanyahu's hard-line Likud-Beitenu group led with 31 seats - 11 fewer than the combined 42 spots in the previous parliament.

The biggest surprise came from the secular centrist Yesh Atid party, founded by former journalist Yair Lapid in 2012, which won 19 seats. This beat out the Labor Party's 17 seats and the 12 seats won by the far-right religious nationalist Jewish Home party. Israeli media describe centrist Yesh Atid's showing as the biggest surprise of the day, with the party finishing well above pre-election predictions.

With more than 99 percent of the vote counted, each side had 60 seats in the 120-member Knesset, with Likud in alliance with the Yisrael Beitenu party. The economy was a major priority for voters. The campaign tended to be dominated by social and economic issues: jobs, the high cost of housing, and domestic issues such as the fact that ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs are exempted from the military draft, which some secular Israelis feel is unfair.

A new ultra-nationalist party, Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home), was likely to get 12 seats. The party, led by millionaire Naftali Bennett, advocates annexing large parts of the occupied West Bank and rejects the idea of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Hatnua, the party of former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who is a proponent of direct peace talks with Palestinians, and Meretz, a longtime left-wing party, each gained six seats. According to political experts, Netanyahu is expected to form an alliance with Habayit Hayehudi and ultra-conservative religious parties to counter the rising popularity and influence of center-left parties.

Netanyahu claimed victory and vowed to form as broad a coalition as possible. He told cheering supporters "the first challenge was and remains preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons." Netanyahu has said he will not let Tehran enrich enough uranium to make a single nuclear bomb - a threshold Israeli experts said could arrive as early as mid-2013.

Netanyahu's right-wing Likud-Beitenu ticket won 31 seats in the election in January 2013, more than any other party, but far short of a majority in the 120-member parliament. A month after the election, Netanyahu had reached a deal with just one other party, the centrist Hatnuah led by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, which brought six seats to his coalition. Netanyahu had until early March to find enough partners to form a government, but can ask for a single, two-week extension. If he still had not secured a majority after that, Peres could hand the job to another party leader, but if no government emerged, Israelis would have to go to the polls again. The slow pace of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition building, held up by disputes over state benefits for ultra-Orthodox Jews, raised speculation that Israel may be forced into a new election.

At the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, 3 February 2013, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following remarks: "Last night, I called upon the Knesset factions to join me in as broad a national unity government as possible that would unite the public at a decisive time in our history. The supreme mission that a national unity government will face is stopping Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons. This is all the more complicated because Iran has equipped itself with new centrifuges that shorten the enrichment time. We cannot countenance this process."

Iran will be capable to create nuclear weapons in six to seven months [that is, March or April 2013], Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with the NBC channel on 16 September 2012. "They're in the last 20 yards. And you can't let them cross that goal line," Netanyahu said. "Because that would have unbelievable consequences." “Iran is guided by a leadership with an unbelievable fanaticism, "It's the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today,” Netanyahu said referring to a string of riots across the globe sparked by the U.S.-made short film titled "Innocence of Muslims." The Israeli prime minister also said he disagrees with the statements that Iran’s nuclear weapons would stabilize the situation in the Middle East calling this approach “a new standard for human stupidity.”

On 14 March 2013 Israeli political parties reached a coalition agreement, with Benjamin Netanyahu taking nearly six weeks to form a new government. For the first time in years, ultra-Orthodox parties were out of the government, with the new governing coalition having an agenda that includes ending military draft exemptions and stipends for the ultra-Orthodox. Israeli military action against Iran would get broad support from the Israeli public and most of the Israeli political system, including within his own coalition.

On June 10, 2014 Israel elected as its new president a conservative lawmaker who is opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state. Reuven Rivlin, 74, is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party. He was said to have a frosty personal relationship with Netanyahu. Rivlin, who has a reputation for political independence, would replace the dovish Shimon Peres in the largely ceremonial, yet influential post. A former speaker of parliament, Rivlin defeated Meir Sheetrit of the moderate Hatnuah party by a vote of 63-53 in a run-off in the legislature, after none of the original five candidates won an outright victory in a first round ballot.

The broad collation was unstable due to disagreements on various topics. The alliance between Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu fell apart on 09 July 2014 with disagreements over how Israel should respond to the rocket fire from Gaza. And on 02 December 2014, PM Netanyahu fired the Finance Minister (Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid) and the Justice Minister (Tzipi Livni of Hatnuah) following vocal disagreements over the budget and a ‘Jewish state’ proposal. On 02 December 2014, Netanyahu called for early elections.

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Page last modified: 08-04-2015 20:22:55 ZULU