After months of guesswork, September 4 has been set as the date for general elections and the papers jumped all over it.

Israel Hayom nails it with its headline, “The race begins.” The Page 2 article says that now that Shas has agreed to elections, a law will be introduced next week to disperse the current Knesset. The article raises an interesting side note to early elections, speculating that the controversial Tal Law, which has been the subject of much politicking, could be automatically renewed due to the new elections.

Yedioth Ahronoth’s coverage includes an article that seemingly contradicts Israel Hayom’s assertion that the Tal Law would be renewed automatically. The paper reports that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman will try to cancel the controversial law before the dissolution of the Knesset, which is expected next Tuesday.

Haaretz’s front page displays the results of a survey the paper conducted that found that 48% of the population believes Netanyahu is the right person to be prime minister. The rest of the survey found that “I don’t know” came in second place with 22%,’ followed by 15% for Labor party chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, 9% for Avigdor Liberman and 6% for newly elected Kadima chief Shaul Mofaz.

Maariv also leads its coverage with the results of its own survey that show the results in terms of Knesset seats. Not surprisingly, Likud receives the lion’s share of the Knesset seats with 31, followed by Labor with 18, Yisrael Beytenu with 13, and Kadima and Yair Lapid’s new Yesh Atid party each receiving 11 seats.

Independence from the Knesset?

One party that has been noticeably absent from all the results (and which placed prominent ads in both Haaretz and Maariv) is Ehud Barak’s Independence Party. Yesterday the defense minister held a press conference to declare that his party would stand on its own in the elections and not be swallowed up by Likud.

Israel Hayom ties its coverage of Barak’s press conference with an excerpt of an exclusive interview it conducted with Ehud Barak to be published tomorrow, in which Barak attacks former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former defense officials for their criticism of the current government’s policies on Iran.

Violence in Egypt

Yedioth reports on Page 4 about violence in Cairo just weeks before its scheduled elections. The article reports that 20 people were killed and over 40 injured in clashes outside the Egyptian Defense Ministry. The violence raises concerns that things will not go smoothly in the presidential elections, which are scheduled to begin on May 23.

Haaretz reports that pro-Palestinian activists are expected to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to rule on whether desecrating an Israeli flag is an anti-Semitic act. The case comes after a ruling by the Scottish Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that a pro-Palestinian activist who rubbed his crotch and hands over an Israeli flag had committed an anti-Semitic act. The offender was fined and sentenced to community service for committing a racially motivated crime. He argued that his act against the flag was not anti-Semitic but anti-Israeli; the court disagreed.

Maariv reports on Page 8 about the release of Hagai Amir, the brother of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir. Hagai Amir was convicted of participating in the assassination by driving his brother to commit the act. He served an additional year in prison for issuing threats against Ariel Sharon while he was prime minister. The article quotes Amir as having no regrets: “I am still convinced that I did the right thing.” He is expected to be released tomorrow and his family is planning a celebration for his return.

Yedioth profiles an athletic young man who is suing the IDF to let him into a combat unit. When Yoav Dangori was three years old he battled leukemia and has been cancer-free for 13 years, but still the IDF will not allow him to serve in a combat unit. The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear the case.

Haaretz reports that the state has agreed to pay 1.2 million shekels to the family of a prisoner who was killed by prison staff. The agreement comes as the states closes its investigation of the prison staff involved due to a lack of evidence. The prisoner, Mohammed Ashkar, was killed at the Ketziot Prison in 2007 by a unit of guards conducting a surprise inspection.

In the opinion pages, Yael Paz-Melamed writes about the Knesset seats the center-left is going to lose this election cycle due to disunity. Writing about Eldad Yaniv’s new party “A New Land,” Paz-Melamed states, “Here we have a new injustice: throwing the new party thousands of votes even though it will not cross the threshold [to Knesset membership].” Add to that the thousands of votes going to Barak’s Independence party and the center left will have lost 2-3 seats because it can’t achieve unity. With so much at stake in this election, she urges the parties to talk to each other and find a way not to waste Knesset seats.