Governments in Israel rarely manage to stay in power for a full four years, so the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is just one year shy of serving a complete term is unusual. He may not go to the distance, at least not this time.
The Israeli media on Sunday was abuzz with rumors that an early general election could take place within months. Israelis were scheduled to next go to the polls only in October 2013.
Among the situations that could result in early elections is growing opposition to the Tal Law, the legal framework that allows ultra-Orthodox Jewish men to avoid military service.
Netanyahu visited some of the anti-Tal Law demonstrators on Sunday and reportedly promised to adopt their position. Some Israeli lawmakers said he better do so soon. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman even threatened to pull his Israel Beiteinu party out of the coalition if the Tal Law were not overturned in short order.
There has also been reported escalating tension between Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Independence Party) over how to handle "unauthorized" Jewish communities and presences in Judea and Samaria, though both men deny there is a problem.
During a meeting with ministers from his own Likud Party on Sunday, Netanyahu said he will not be blackmailed by coalition partners, and confirmed that he is considering calling for early elections.
Army Radio speculated that the election would take place at the start of September, while Israel Radio put the date between October and December.
Whenever the next election occurs, polls show that Netanyahu and the Likud are likely to walk away firm victors, and that may have even more to do with advancing the election date than the coalition problems.
A poll published by the Hebrew daily Israel Hayom showed Netanyahu's Likud winning 31 out of the Knesset's 120 seats if elections were held today. The Likud currently has 27 seats. More importantly, the poll showed the opposition-leading Kadima Party dropping from its current 28 seats down to just 13. The left-wing Labor and the right-wing Israel Beiteinu parties would both win 17 and 14 seats, respectively.
The net result, if the current polls are accurate, would be that the right-center bloc in the Knesset, headed by Netanyahu, would be stronger than it is today, and would not rely on the Labor Party to form a stable governing coalition.
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