Likud argues fine print gives current Knesset an extra year in power

Party claims that timing of elections means Knesset term should last five years, not four; Knesset legal adviser disagrees

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, left, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, left, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Should the ruling coalition defy expectations and last its full four-year term, it may face one last battle with the attorney general: when to call the next round of Knesset elections.

A Likud party response solicited by elections czar Judge Noam Sohlberg, who had received a question from a private citizen, argued that the next round of elections should be held in fall 2027, one year beyond the fall 2026 date that will mark four years since the last election.

That is because the law as written calls for a Knesset elected after a previous one was shortened by early elections to last until the Hebrew month of Heshvan — roughly analogous to parts of October-November — following the expiration of the Knesset after four years.

However, because the last round of elections were held in Heshvan, a dispute has arisen whether the next round of elections need be held in 2026 or 2027. Likud is arguing for an extra year at the helm, saying that the law calls for elections in the next Heshvan, not the same one when the term expires.

According to an opinion filed by the party, backed by coalition ally United Torah Judaism, the amount of time that a term can be extended until new elections “can range from one month, in a case that four years were up in Tishrei [the month preceding Heshvan], to 12 months, in a case where the date [for elections] fell during Heshvan.”

It may be a moot point anyway. The Knesset rarely makes it a full four years without early elections being called.

Municipality workers take off election campaign posters the day after the general elections in the northern town of Katzrin, Golan Heights on November 2, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Also responding to Sohlberg, who heads the Central Elections Committee, Knesset legal adviser Sagit Afik wrote that “a check of the language and content of Basic Law: The Knesset shows that the date for the election of the 26th Knesset should fall between the third Thursday of Heshvan 5787 and the 17th of Sivan 5787.” The Hebrew year 5787 corresponds to 2026-7. Sivan generally falls in May-June.

She added that the law could have included explicit language laying out a five-year Knesset term in cases where elections are held in Heshvan, but it did not.

Likud responded to reports on the dispute by denying that it was seeking to change any laws.

“Lies. Likud is not advancing any law to extend the Knesset term. The length of the Knesset term will be determined by the appropriate legal processes and not by a Knesset decision, as has been done in the past,” Likud spokesman Ofer Golan said in a message to Hebrew-language media.

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