The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday gave its initial approval to postpone the nationwide municipal elections for another four weeks amid the war with Hamas, ending a weeks-long disagreement between Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel.
“We usually do not hold elections in wartime, but these elections have been determined in advance. They have already been postponed once,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ahead of the Cabinet meeting at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Local elections were initially scheduled for Oct. 31 and were first pushed back to Jan. 30 following Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attacks and the ensuing Israel Defense Forces operation. They will now be held on Feb. 27.
Netanyahu said he recommended that the vote be postponed again “to enable as many [IDF] reservists as possible to participate,” calling the right to participate in the election “an elementary and important right.”
According to data gathered by the military, 688 IDF reservists from 144 municipalities are running for local office, and they cannot be discharged from duty, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Smotrich (Religious Zionism Party) requested that Arbel (Shas Party) delay the elections until after the war “in order to ensure proper elections that do not discriminate against those who fight and sacrifice their lives for the State of Israel and the people of Israel.”
Smotrich said the majority of Religious Zionism’s candidates were drafted into the reserves, including nearly a quarter of the party’s candidates for mayor or local council head.
However, Arbel refused Smotrich’s request, insisting for several weeks that it would be reasonable to hold the elections at the end of January.
Sunday’s Cabinet decision, which is still subject to ratification by the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee and the Knesset plenum, was unanimously approved by the ministers, Netanyahu’s office said.