Against this backdrop, there are growing signs he may soon call for elections — possibly as early as next week, when parliament reconvenes from its summer break. And though Netanyahu hasn’t committed yet, conditions appear ripe for him to schedule the vote, nearly a year ahead of schedule.
Polls, for now at least, predict a solid Netanyahu victory, one that would assure his place in history as
But one big obstacle could still trip him up: a mounting corruption investigation that may soon deliver criminal charges.
“It comes down to his electoral prospects and his legal situation,” said
If he gets another term, Netanyahu would most likely build a government similar to the religious, nationalistic coalition he currently leads.
A strong showing in the polls could also shield him in the corruption case, the thinking goes, making it much harder for the attorney general to charge a popular, newly re-elected prime minister.
Netanyahu’s opening speech to the Knesset, or parliament, on Monday could give an indication as to which way he is leaning. On the agenda will be passing a new law mandating the military draft of ultra-Orthodox men, a political hot potato that has deeply divided the government.
Already, signs of coalition upheaval are everywhere.
Lieberman, who heads the nationalist, but secular, Yisrael Beiteinu faction, is also refusing to bend to an ultra-Orthodox demand that he ease the proposed legislation to draft young religious men.
Ultra-Orthodox parties consider conscription a taboo, fearing that military service will lead to immersion in secularism. But years of exemptions have generated widespread resentment among the rest of Jewish Israelis.
Earlier this week, Netanyahu held an impromptu press conference, fielding questions from the media for the first time in months in what was viewed as a warm-up for the election season.
“But it’s obvious that when Lieberman and the ultra-Orthodox are hardening their positions about the draft law, we have a problem abiding by the
If history is any guide, elections look likely. The last time a government served its full term was in 1988. Since then, elections have almost always been moved up because of a coalition crisis or a strategic move by the prime minister to maximize his chance of re-election.
A poll aired Sunday on
The survey found that, if elections were held today, Netanyahu’s Likud party would get 32 seats of the 120-seat Knesset — a two seat jump from its current level — and his current coalition would score a solid majority. The centrist
The poll had Netanyahu, with 38 percent support, as being the most suitable candidate for prime minister — far ahead of his closest competitor at 12 percent, retired military chief
The Midgam poll surveyed more than 500 Israelis and had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.
The biggest wild card for Netanyahu is the corruption investigation.
Police have already questioned Netanyahu a dozen times and recommended he be indicted on bribery and breach of trust charges in two cases. The first involves allegedly taking gifts from billionaires and the second for allegedly discussing legislation that favored a major newspaper in exchange for positive media coverage. Netanyahu has also been grilled about a corruption case involving
This week, his wife,
Netanyahu has angrily rejected the accusations against him and his wife, calling them part of a media-orchestrated witch-hunt. His sense of indignation seems to have served him politically, rallying his conservative base in an assault on the supposed liberal elites plotting to get rid of him.
Israeli law is unclear whether a prime minister must step down if indicted. Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Netanyahu refused to discuss the topic, expressing confidence that he would not be charged.
But later, his finance minister,
If indicted, Netanyahu can expect such calls to grow — whether there are elections or not.