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Israel's Netanyahu calls for early elections amid budget dispute

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Tuesday for early parliamentary elections after failing to agree with coalition partners on a national budget for the coming year.

In a brief televised statement, Netanyahu said elections should be held as "early as possible," which political analysts said meant they would come nine months early, in January. Netanyahu, a popular leader who has overseen a solid economy and four years of relative stability in a turbulent region, is expected to win re-election easily.

A victory would allow Netanyahu to press ahead with budget cuts opposed by coalition partners and sustain his push for aggressive action against Iran. In a speech at the United Nations last month, he suggested that any potential Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would not happen before spring.

Parliament is scheduled to begin its winter session this week, during which it is supposed to pass a national budget for next year. But after holding several recent meetings with coalition partners, Netanyahu said he concluded that an agreement on a "responsible budget" was impossible. Calling an early election would defer the budget debate.

Israeli parliamentary elections are usually called early, and Netanyahu's announcement was widely expected.

Opinion surveys indicate that Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party would handily win the most seats in parliament, and Netanyahu has no real competition.

Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich polled a distant second. Her platform is centered on the economy, a topic political analysts say is likely to be eclipsed by Netanyahu's focus on Iran and other security-related matters.

Israel's Netanyahu calls for early elections amid budget dispute 10/09/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 9:33pm]
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