JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing re-election in three months, opened his campaign by citing increased global efforts to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon as evidence of his growing clout.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed a law early Tuesday by a vote of 100-0 that dissolves the government and sets new elections for Jan. 22. Netanyahu said on Oct. 9 he wants to hold elections a year ahead of schedule after failing to agree with his coalition partners on cuts in the proposed 2013 budget.
Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said on Oct. 13 the decision to move elections forward in response to the budget impasse was “a good move” that will benefit the economy.
The Israeli polling comes amid accelerating inflation as the government raises taxes and oil prices increase. Tensions with Iran are also growing in the midst of concern about the nature of the Islamic Republic’s atomic work.
Netanyahu said in a speech to the Knesset in Jerusalem that his government had “returned security” to Israel through steps such as the deployment of the Iron Dome missile defense system, the construction of a security fence along the Egyptian border and mobilizing the international community against Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
“We raised the Iranian threat to the center of the global agenda, and unprecedented sanctions were imposed” on the Persian Gulf nation, Netanyahu said. “We have a capability that we didn’t have before to act against Iran and its proxies.”
The United States and Israel will begin their largest joint air and missile defense exercise by the end of this month, Navy Lieutenant Commander Wendy Snyder, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement Monday.
The exercise follows open disagreement between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama over the timing of any military strikes to stop the Iranian nuclear program that Iran says is for civilian purposes.
The European Union (EU) approved extra curbs on trade with Iran Monday, including on its finance, energym and transport industries. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast Tuesday called the sanctions “illogical and inhumane” and repeated his government’s readiness for “constructive” talks.
Shaul Mofaz, leader of the opposition Kadima party, responded from the Knesset podium that Netanyahu has left Israel a “weaker, more isolated, and fearful” country and called him “the most cynical prime minister in the history of modern Zionism.”
Two surveys published last week in the newspapers Haaretz and Ma’ariv found that Netanyahu’s Likud party is favored to win re-election. The polls had Likud taking 29 Knesset seats, making it the largest parliamentary faction, and together with other parties in the current ruling coalition gaining more than the 60 seats needed to form a new government.
Inflation accelerated to 2.1 percent in the 12 months through September from 1.9 percent the previous month, the Jerusalem-based Central Bureau of Statistics said yesterday. Tuesday, the bureau will release its third estimate for second-quarter gross domestic product.
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