Early elec­tions? Not so fast

Along with the on­set of Op­er­a­tion North­ern Shield came three new timeta­bles for the next elec­tions

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • Jerusalem Post Staff

Plan­ning a trip abroad in 2019 but don’t want to miss vot­ing in Is­raeli elec­tions?

Three new timeta­bles for early elec­tion were set in place by the news of the past week, in­clud­ing the po­lice de­ci­sion to rec­om­mend in­dict­ing Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu in Case 4000, the be­gin­ning of Op­er­a­tion North­ern Shield and the Supreme Court de­cid­ing to ex­tend the dead­line to pass the haredi (ul­tra-Ortho­dox) draft bill to Jan­uary 15.

Gil Hoff­man ex­plains why, as a re­sult of both Jewish and Mus­lim hol­i­days, Tues­day, June 18 is the only date for the elec­tion that would re­ally work be­tween now and Septem­ber.

If the coali­tion re­mains to­gether, elec­tions are slated for Novem­ber.

The Zion­ist Union fac­tion held its an­nual Hanukkah party in the Knes­set on Mon­day af­ter­noon and re­minded ev­ery­one why Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu is lucky to have them as his main op­po­si­tion party.

They lit can­dles and then im­me­di­ately broke out into three dif­fer­ent Hanukkah songs. With party leader Avi Gab­bay miss­ing the event re­port­edly due to the flu (even though Channel 10 re­ported that he was ac­tu­ally vis­it­ing a sen­si­tive for­eign coun­try), the MKs fought over which one to con­tinue singing. There was also a dis­pute over whether to light one can­dle or two dur­ing the day.

As hap­pens of­ten with the Zion­ist Union’s MKs, if they are all asked the same ques­tion, there will be dif­fer­ent an­swers. This time, the ques­tion was what would hap­pen if Ne­tanyahu ini­ti­ated an elec­tion that would take place dur­ing the Mus­lim holy month of Ramadan, from May 5 to June 4.

Holding the elec­tion then would not be out of char­ac­ter for Ne­tanyahu, who in­fa­mously warned on Elec­tion Day in 2015 that the Arabs were go­ing out to vote in droves. Per­haps the droves would not go vote if they were fast­ing.

Op­po­si­tion leader Tzipi Livni and Zion­ist Union fac­tion chair­man Yoel Has­son replied that they want the race held as soon as pos­si­ble, but an elec­tion dur­ing Ramadan is un­ac­cept­able. MKs Ei­tan Ca­bel and Yossi Yonah said the party’s po­si­tion is that “the elec­tion should have hap­pened yes­ter­day,” and Ramadan should not stand in the way.

Meretz leader Ta­mar Zand­berg said try­ing to hold the race dur­ing Ramadan would be “yet an­other in­ap­pro­pri­ate po­lit­i­cal game played by the prime min­is­ter,” and she would have no choice but to op­pose it. Arab MKs said they al­ready asked Ne­tanyahu not to ini­ti­ate an elec­tion dur­ing Ramadan and were pre­par­ing a court pe­ti­tion in case he does.

“The idea of hav­ing an elec­tion dur­ing Ramadan would be the same as hav­ing an elec­tion dur­ing the pe­riod of the Jewish high hol­i­days,” Joint List MK Haneen Zoabi said. “Ob­vi­ously, Ne­tanyahu would not dream of holding an elec­tion then, as it would be con­sid­ered both an­tisemitic and deeply anti-demo­cratic. Holding an elec­tion dur­ing Ramadan is ba­si­cally stat­ing: we do not want you to par­tic­i­pate, which from the openly racist prime min­is­ter, would not be at all sur­pris­ing.”

While Ne­tanyahu’s as­so­ciates at one point spoke en­thu­si­as­ti­cally about a May elec­tion after In­de­pen­dence Day and the Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test, now they are con­fi­dent ci­ti­zens will only go to the polls after that.

Three new timeta­bles for the elec­tion were set in place by the news of the past week, and they all coin­ci­den­tally over­lap.

First came Sun­day’s two le­gal de­vel­op­ments.

The po­lice an­nounced its rec­om­men­da­tion to in­dict Ne­tanyahu in Case 4000 (the Bezeq/Walla Affair), and At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Avichai Man­del­blit’s of­fice leaked that his de­ci­sion on whether to in­dict Ne­tanyahu pend­ing a hear­ing would take place around Passover, which will be cel­e­brated from April 19 to 26. Ne­tanyahu’s as­so­ciates have in­di­cated that he wants the elec­tion to be held be­tween the “in­dict­ment pend­ing a hear­ing” and the hear­ing it­self, some six months later.

The sec­ond le­gal de­vel­op­ment the same day was the Supreme Court de­cid­ing to re­ject Ne­tanyahu’s re­quest for a four-month ex­ten­sion to pass the haredi (ul­tra-Ortho­dox) draft bill, and in­stead ex­tend the dead­line to pass the leg­is­la­tion that can­not be passed with the cur­rent coali­tion to Jan­uary 15. That date im­me­di­ately be­came the ear­li­est day for an elec­tion to be trig­gered.

On Tues­day, when Op­er­a­tion North­ern Shield be­gan, the IDF said detecting and de­stroy­ing the tun­nels on the bor­der with Le­banon would take a

month to a month and a half. It can be safely as­sumed that no elec­tion can be ini­ti­ated dur­ing an IDF op­er­a­tion, whose tim­ing hap­pens to co­in­cide with the draft bill ex­ten­sion.

So open your cal­en­dars. An elec­tion must legally be held on a Tues­day, at least 90 days after it is called, and it tra­di­tion­ally takes place as soon as pos­si­ble after that, in or­der to limit its cost and dam­age.

If the Knes­set dis­persed it­self on Wed­nes­day, Jan­uary 16, the elec­tion could be held on Tues­day, April 16. But that is only three days be­fore the Passover Seder, and too many res­i­dents will al­ready be out of town.

Tues­day, April 30 also won’t work, be­cause it would only give Is­raelis two days to come back to the coun­try after the hol­i­day ends, and there is an extra day of not eat­ing bread for the ob­ser­vant this year, be­cause Shab­bat starts im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the con­clu­sion of Passover.

The next Tues­day, May 7, is al­ready Ramadan, as is every other Tues­day in May. Tues­day, June 4, is Eid al-Fitr, the hol­i­day that marks the end of the holy month.

Tues­day, June 11 is only two days after Shavuot, when lo­cals tend to stay in the coun­try. But a hol­i­day is still a hol­i­day, and it takes time for many Jews to di­gest dairy food. Tues­day, June 25 is al­ready too far into the sum­mer when kids are leav­ing school, and there is no way the elec­torate will go to the polls in ei­ther July or Au­gust.

That leaves Tues­day, June 18 as the only date for the elec­tion that would re­ally work be­tween now and Septem­ber, when Rosh Hashanah only be­gins on the 29th, so any Tues­day in Septem­ber is also fair game.

Those pos­si­ble elec­tion dates in June and Septem­ber would all suit Ne­tanyahu, whose hear­ing would likely take place in Oc­to­ber, or per­haps Novem­ber, be­cause Oc­to­ber has so many Jewish hol­i­days. Ne­tanyahu’s as­so­ciates do not want the elec­tion after the hear­ing, whose con­tents if leaked, could be po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing.

If the elec­tion would be held in Septem­ber, or on the date when it would be held if it is not ad­vanced, Novem­ber 5, the process of form­ing the next gov­ern­ment would ei­ther end or be­gin when the coun­try starts eat­ing their first pre-Hanukkah suf­ganiyot.

By then, the Zion­ist Union could have a new leader, who could tell the MKs what song to sing after they fin­ish light­ing can­dles. And many po­lit­i­cal con­fla­gra­tions will un­doubt­edly ig­nite and be ex­tin­guished be­tween now and then. •

(Corinna Kern/Reuters)

PRIME MIN­IS­TER Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and his wife Sara at­tend a Likud Party gath­er­ing for the first night of Hanukkah on Sun­day in Ra­mat Gan.

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