The shadow of early elections is again looming over Israel. In any case the country's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has warned of this possibility, declaring that he would resign in case the draft 2003 state budget does not pass through Knesset. In all probability, everything will happen exactly in this way.
Several days ago Israeli parliamentarians went on holiday. The new Knesset session will open on October 13th, with the discussion of the state budget draft to become one of the first, if not the first, item on its agenda. The given document, known as "Silvan Shalom's plan" after the current Finance Minister who created it, arouses great dissatisfaction in the Israeli society. Above all, it provides for considerable reductions of various types of social programs, including grants to old and to single people, to large families, to unemployed people, for the rent of housing and so on.
In the past few months the Israeli economy has been in turmoil. Military expenses have gone up drastically, the once very lucrative foreign tourism industry has dropped to an unprecedented low level, construction has been curtailed, high technology enterprises encounter problems, and unemployment rates have grown sharply. Hence, the government is striving to find a way out of the situation and, to be precise, to save about two billion dollars by any, even unpopular, means.
At the end of July, the draft budget passed through the voting of the government members with great difficulty, and that thanks to serious pressure on the part of Ariel Sharon, who is said to have "personally worked" with almost every minister.
But, according to many estimates, "Silvan Shalom's Plan" will fall through in the Knesset already in the first reading.
The alignment of forces at the Knesset voting in October, in principle, is clear, with 26 deputies of the Avoda party and 17 from SHAS voting against the state budget, and that is more than one-third of the 120 deputies. Things are clear with the remaining 18 votes necessary for the document to fall through. Obviously, the entire left opposition will vote against it, and that is ten deputy mandates of the MERETZ party, two of the Democratic Choice, plus Shinui, the Arab parties and so on.
And then, as Ariel Sharon firmly promises, he will disband the government and Knesset, after which early elections will have to be held in Israel within the next three months. Incidentally, there have not been elections in Israel at the appointed time for more than ten years now. Something always happened, and the elections were held ahead of time.
According to many estimates, there is much chance for Ariel Sharon's threats to come true.
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