Whether to maximize his own political fortunes, or–as some have suggested–to facilitate a possible pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear program in the fall, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared yesterday that he will call early elections for the Knesset, Israel’s legislature.
Under a parliamentary system, the prime minister has the power to call elections early. In the United States, national elections are set by law as the first Tuesday in November, for both the president and for Congress. The ability to set the election date can be a political benefit to the prime minister–allowing, for example, a strong showing of support while opinion polls are favorable and before a controversial decision must be made.
Netanyahu’s stated reason for early elections is political stability: “I will not lend a hand to an elections campaign of a year and a half that would destabilize the government. I prefer short elections of four months that could quickly bring back the stability to the political system,” he is quoted in Ha’aretz as saying. He also held out the prospect of a national unity government between his conservative Likud and the moderate Kadima or left-wing Labor parties. Concerns about stability could also signal that a confrontation with Iran is on Netanyahu’s mind.