JERUSALEM, Israel -- Instead of the possibility of a military strike on Iran this summer, Israel is gearing up for early elections. And if you were a "fly on the wall" on the first day of the Knesset's summer session Monday, you would likely have heard lots of conversation about just what that means.
Like most countries, the run-up to elections will draw most of the attention. Nevertheless, one senior Israeli official commented earlier this week that if push came to shove, Israel could manage to deal with Iran even in the midst of an election.
Israeli voters cast their ballots for the party, not for individuals. The party that wins the most mandates will form the next government. According to the latest polls, that will be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, with 31 mandates.
At the start of the week, Netanyahu held a series of meetings with coalition partners to choose a date amenable to all the parties. But the consensus seems to be the earlier the better.
Netanyahu's preference is August 14, but September 4, looks more likely. That would give everyone a few more weeks to campaign. With the fall holidays starting in mid-September this year -- Rosh Hashanah begins September 14 at sundown -- elections have to be held before or after.
Newly elected Kadima head MK Shaul Mofaz, said his party would prefer mid-October, but it would be ready for any eventuality.
"We are united and ready for the main task -- replacing Netanyahu's government," Mofaz said, Israel Hayom reported. With the latest polls showing Kadima dropping from 28 to 11 mandates, observers say that may be less than realistic. On Tuesday, former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni resigned from the Knesset.
Most of the remaining parties also favor early elections.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Yisrael Beiteinu wants elections "as early as possible."
Labor Party chairwoman MK Shelly Yachimovich said her party had a "vested interest in having elections as soon as possible." Yachimovich won the primary after Defense Minister Ehud Barak left Labor in January 2011 to form the Independence (Atzmaut) Party.
Barak said Atzmaut, which bills itself as "centrist, Zionist and democratic," will run not seek a secure slot on the Likud lineup. It will run independently, Barak said, predicting it would win three seats, which would allow him to retain his post as defense minister. Barak also served as defense minister in former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government.