PM Netanyahu Dissolves Parliament, Israel To Hold Elections April 9
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu dissolved the Israeli parliament on Monday and set April 9 as the date for the next national elections. The move was not altogether surprising, with most having predicted that the premier would send Israelis to the polls at some time before his mandate officially ends in November. The ostensible impetus for the timing of the move is the coalition’s longstanding inability to pass new legislation, in accordance with Supreme Court rulings, to draft ultra-Orthodox students into the military. However, many analysts believe that Netanyahu’s calculus is based on a desire to pre-empt possible indictments against him in three corruption probes. According to sources, the strongest evidence against the premier is related to so-called Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is suspected of orchestrating positive media coverage for himself from the owner of the popular Walla news site, Shaul Elovitch, who is the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq communications giant. In return, the prime minister allegedly helped Bezeq buy the Israeli satellite cable provider Yes while overriding any anti-trust issues raised by officials. In Case 1000, the Israeli leader is accused of accepting lavish gifts in return for providing favors to wealthy benefactors, whereas in Case 2000 he allegedly sought to trade positive newspaper coverage for benefits to Yediot Ahronot owner Arnon Mozes. Netanyahu has consistently maintained that “there will be nothing as there is nothing,” a mantra accepted by many of his supporters that believe a predominantly left-wing legal fraternity, spurred on by ideologically-aligned politicians and backed by the media, has manufactured fake crises in order to end the premier’s nearly decade-long tenure. An Israeli poll conducted Monday predicted that Netanyahu’s Likud Party would win the next elections in a landslide with 30 mandates (in the 120-member parliament), a full 18 seats ahead of the closest competitor, thereby positioning him to easily form the next government. That said, rumors are rampant about the possible formation of a “grand” center-left coalition to challenge Netanyahu, with potential contenders including former military chief of staff Benny Gantz; former defense minister Moshe Yaalon; and former prime minister Ehud Barak. Despite his legal woes, Netanyahu has vowed to continue leading the Jewish state even if he is indicted, although any convictions in a court of law would likely force him to resign.