Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Kislev 5763 - November 6, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Elections in 3 Months
by Yated Ne'eman Staff and M. Plaut

The main focus of the country for the next three months was determined, as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dissolved the Knesset and set early elections. Scheduled to be held anyway next November, they are now scheduled for the early part of February, 2003 or late in January. By then, Sharon will have served as prime minister for almost two years, and it will be close to four years since the last elections in May, 1999.

The current government now becomes a caretaker government that has special privileges and limitations. New initiatives are banned by law and custom, but challenges by the opposition are also stopped. The day-to-day details of government must continue, even if the political leadership is busy with the election campaign.

Sharon said that his reluctant conclusion was that early elections were inevitable, adding that dissolving the 15th Knesset is the least damaging of available options.

"Elections are the last thing this country needs right now," said the Prime Minister.

Sharon accused the Labor Party, which resigned en masse from the national unity government last week, of "political whimsy," but vowed that he would not allow the new situation to destabilize the country.

"I will manage to get the budget through; I will not do anything to change our special relationship with the U.S.; and I will not change the basic guidelines of the government," the prime minister said.

Sharon also had harsh words for the National Union-Israel Beitenu, which rebuffed his invitation to join the coalition. The prime minister said the faction had come with a long list of demands, including that he change the basic government guidelines and that he reject a new U.S.-backed peace plan.

Sharon said that from his first day in office, two years ago, he decided not to succumb to political blackmail and that he would not do so now.

Early Tuesday, Sharon told Israel President Moshe Katsav that early elections are inevitable because he is unable to form a stable government. As part of political protocol, Sharon has to inform the president of intentions to call early elections before making the announcement.

Ex-IDF chief Shaul Mofaz was sworn in as defense minister on Monday evening after the Knesset approved Prime Minister Sharon's choice for defense minister. Sixty-nine MKs supported the appointment, 39 opposed it, and three abstained.

Mofaz hurried from the plenum immediately after the swearing in ceremony, so that he could receive an update on the suicide bomb attack in a mall in Kfar Sava in which two Argentinean immigrants were killed and about 40 people were injured. One of those murdered was the security guard who prevented an even greater tragedy.

Sharon has offered the Foreign Ministry to former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, saying that his talents can be used particularly well in that position, to benefit the entire country. After several meetings, Netanyahu said that he would take the position only if elections are moved up. On Tuesday afternoon, Netanyahu announced that he would accept the position.

Two years ago Netanyahu also declined to run for prime minister because he felt that the makeup of the Knesset made it unworkable. That decision left the stage open for Sharon who, contrary to many expectations, held a government together for 21 months and has real achievement to his credit, especially in controlling terror.

The economy remains a problem. It is not clear how much of the problem is due to government mishandling or non-handling of the economic difficulties. Certainly much of the problem is due to the worldwide economic slowdown and the intifadah.

Netanyahu and Sharon will compete in Likud primaries to select the party leader who will be its candidate for prime minister. The traditional election system, in which voters select only a party and not a separate prime minister, will once again be in force. The Labor party will also hold primaries to select a leader. There the contest is a three one between current Labor leader Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Chaim Ramon and Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna, who has never held national elective office.

There will be a big question mark over the performance of many parties since the new law makes the situation very different from that in the last elections.


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