Israel moves for early elections


The Israeli government today proposed that national elections be moved forward to September 4, putting in motion a brief campaign expected to propel Benjamin Netanyahu to another term as prime minister.

Parliament is to begin deliberating bills to dissolve the legislature later in today, making the date official. A final vote is expected to be held tomomrrow.

The current government is the most stable Israel has had in years. But disagreements on a variety of domestic issues such as drafting the ultra-Orthodox into the military and tearing down illegal structures in West Bank settlements have led Netanyahu to move up elections by more than a year.

Recent polls have suggested Netanyahu's Likud Party would win at least one-quarter of parliament's 120 seats to become the legislature's largest faction - putting him in a comfortable position to form a majority coalition.

They also indicate he might be able to form a more moderate coalition than the hawkish lineup he now heads, in partnership with centrist parties more open to making concession to the Palestinians.

The early elections have also renewed speculation that Israel might attack Iran's suspect nuclear programme, perhaps within months.

Israel, like the West, thinks Iran is developing nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies. But it has repeatedly hinted it might strike Iran if it concludes that US-led diplomacy and sanctions have failed.

Weighing against any possible attack are heavy US pressure to give diplomacy and sanctions more time, and the prospect of a deadly Iranian retaliation.