Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday he wanted his government to fulfill its term, putting the onus of triggering an expected early election on to a coalition partner.
Netanyahu has faced calls from his coalition members to hold a snap election after the resignation of Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday.
Rather than dare his coalition partners to opt for early elections with the confidence of their supposed sure-fire winner, Netanyahu suddenly seems desperate to avoid them | Analysishttps://t.co/DoaoPQkRPk
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) November 18, 2018
Lieberman quit over what he described as the government’s too-soft policy on an upsurge of cross-border violence with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, leaving the government with a razor-thin majority.
Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who heads the centrist Kulanu party, was the first coalition partner to call for an early election after meeting Netanyahu on Thursday.
Israel heading for early elections: Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri have told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that they support an early election. Kahlon, the leader of Kulanu and Deri, the leader of Shas, told the… https://t.co/prpNibJhpO BICOM
— Jewish Community (@JComm_NewsFeeds) November 16, 2018
Kahlon’s calls were echoed by Aryeh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and by members of the nationalist Jewish Home whose head, Naftali Bennett, asked to succeed Lieberman as defense chief but was turned down by Netanyahu on Friday.
Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party said that he will meet Kahlon on Sunday “in a last attempt to convince him not to bring down the government.”
בתקופה ביטחונית רגישה זו לא צריך ולא נכון ללכת לבחירות. אנחנו גם זוכרים היטב מה קרה כשגורמים בתוך הקואליציה הפילו את ממשלות הליכוד ב-1992 וב-1999, וקיבלנו את אסון אוסלו ואת אסון האינתיפאדה.
צריך לעשות כל מה שניתן לעשות כדי להימנע מחזרה על הטעויות הללו pic.twitter.com/zccYtZ3wDJ
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) November 18, 2018
Netanyahu said on Twitter:
“If the Kulanu faction doesn’t bring the government down – there is a government. All Likud members want to keep serving the country for another whole year until the end of the term in November 2019.”
The loss of Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu faction leaves Netanyahu with control of just 61 of the 120 seats in parliament. Each of the remaining government factions now has the power to effectively dissolve the coalition.
BREAKING: Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigns over Gaza cease-fire, making early elections likely. https://t.co/z8htegl4bT
— The Associated Press (@AP) November 14, 2018
Political analysts in Israel see an early election as a done deal, with Netanyahu and ministers trying to pin responsibility for bringing the government down on each other so as not to lose favor with their right-wing voter base.
Netanyahu is under investigation in a series of corruption cases, and there has been speculation that he may bring the ballot forward to win a renewed mandate while Israel’s attorney-general decides whether to indict him.
Bennett: Netanyahu didn't object to naming me defense chief, but Israel must hold early elections
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) November 17, 2018
Both Lieberman and Bennett compete with Netanyahu’s Likud for right-wing voters and have spoken in favor of harsh Israeli military action against Gaza’s Hamas.
A poll published on Wednesday by Israel’s Hadashot television news showed Likud falling by one seat from 30 to 29 after months of polls that have shown it gaining power. Only 17 percent of respondents were happy with Netanyahu’s Gaza policy.
(MEMO, PC, Social Media)