Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he would consider an early general election, a day after a key coalition partner threatened to pull out and the opposition called for an autumn vote.
The press was awash with fresh speculation about an early general election on Sunday as Netanyahu fought off sharp criticism from a former top security chief over his policies on Iran’s nuclear programme and on peace with the Palestinians.
Talk of an early vote, which has been in the air for several months, was revived by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who on Saturday said his Yisrael Beitenu party had exhausted its commitment to the coalition in a dispute over the issue of drafting Orthodox Jews into the army.
The country would only know whether or not it was heading for early elections “after May 9,” he said of the date when parliament is expected to discuss new legislation to replace the outgoing Tal Law, which allowed ultra-Orthodox Jews to defer their service in the Israeli military.
Lieberman’s ultra-nationalist party, which is staunchly secular, is the second largest in Netanyahu’s coalition after his own right-wing Likud, and it is the third-largest in parliament.
Netanyahu on Sunday insisted that the Tal Law would be replaced by legislation which was much more balanced.
Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz said his centre-right Kadima party would move to dissolve parliament in the coming weeks if Netanyahu did not heed calls for an early vote.
The general election is currently slated to take place in October 2013.
Although speculation about an early election was mentioned in all the main papers, Sunday’s headlines were dominated by remarks made by Yuval Diskin, former head of the Shin Bet internal security service, in which he launched a blistering attack on Netanyahu and his Defence Minister Ehud Barak.
Diskin, who stepped down last May, accused the pair of misleading the public over the chances that a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would successfully stop Tehran from developing an atomic bomb.
He also said Netanyahu had no interest in talking peace with the Palestinians because it would threaten the stability of his coalition.