This is rather difficult for Americans to get used to, but Israeli Election dates are more "suggestions" than anything you can set your clock to. Or think of it as "use by" dates on various food products. You don't have to keep the cottage cheese until the "use by" date. You may finish it earlier. Israeli Governments are like that. Especially in recent decades, they rarely, if ever, last the full term. There's an inherent instability in the Israeli coalition system.
Bibi tricked everyone just a few short months ago. Looking back, I'm not surprised. He's very sharp and I couldn't understand how he could agree to early September elections when the media had riled up the public against him with the faux social justice campaign going so strongly. That's when he secretly courted Mofaz, eloped and pulled him into the government, effectively neutralizing the opposition.
Now the talk is of February elections, when everyone is busy at work and studies. It's a much better time for the Likud than summer. The media is now trying to figure out who is the intended victim of Ehud Barak. He's obviously been conning someone. I've never trusted him. I think that he's really in cahoots with American Democrats, and I don't like nor feel comfortable with the fact that Netanyahu has given him so much power. The Clinton-Barak relationship is too close to be kosher.
For the third consecutive election, U.S. officials are trying to help the Labor Party's candidate win the Israeli election because of their dissatisfaction with the policies of the incumbent. Taking a page out of George Bush's playbook, the Clinton Administration has once again done just about everything but announce that Bill hates Bibi. Anonymous officials tell reporters how bad their relationship is while the State Department makes pronouncements about Netanyahu violating promises he made to the President.
During the 1999 elections, James Carville, Clinton's media/election advisor worked for Ehud Barak. Barak's Labor Party won, but it was bad news, a reign of terror, Arab terror attacks in Israel. The Barak government didn't last long. The truth is that it was easier for Carville to market Barak than it was for Barak to govern. Since then, Ehud Barak as become more a postscript to Israeli political history. If Bibi hadn't brought him in, his career would be over.
The Ehud Olmert factor is just a media game. Olmert and Arye Deri make great headlines, but I can't see them as returning to serious political power, except maybe behind the scenes.
Technically, February 2013 elections would be early, but in real terms, the Netanyahu Government will have lasted longer than recent ones. My guess is that the next Israeli Elections will be some time before Passover.
Who's taking bets?