Netanyahu survives early poll threat

 Mr Netanyahu had strongly opposed calling early elections

Mr Netanyahu had strongly opposed calling early elections

Israel’s government appears to have survived a possible collapse after a key partner withdrew a threat to leave the coalition and force snap elections.

Naftali Bennett, of the Jewish Home party, had signalled he would quit, but announced on Monday he would stay on.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held talks with ministers in recent days to try to keep his coalition together.

The crisis began when the defence minister resigned in opposition to an Israeli ceasefire with Gaza militants.

Mr Bennett had said he would pull his party out unless he was appointed the new minister of defence.

Mr Netanyahu has assumed the role himself for the time being.

 

The withdrawal of Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Israel Our Home party left Mr Netanyahu’s government clinging to a one-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset (parliament).

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who leads the third largest party in the coalition, said on Monday that he and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked would stay on so long as the prime minister addresses Israel’s “deep security crisis”.

“If the prime minister is serious in his intentions, and I want to believe his words from last night, I am saying here to the prime minister we are removing at this moment all of our political demands and will help you in the huge mission of making Israel win again,” he told reporters on Monday.

 

Mr Netanyahu on Sunday appealed against calling early elections, saying such a decision would be “irresponsible” because of current security concerns.

“In such a period you don’t topple a government. In such a period you don’t go to elections,” he said of recent escalation of tensions in the region.

Naftali Bennett’s surprise decision to remain in the coalition is likely to mean a push for more legislation and action in the coming weeks to prove the government’s right-wing credentials.

Prime Minister Netanyahu appears keen to avoid going to the polls early next year at a time when the attorney general is expected to decide whether to charge him in relation to a series of corruption cases. If he’s charged, it would inevitably lead to calls to step down.

An election would also complicate plans by the Trump administration – which has promised it will soon unveil its peace plan to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Under the law, elections are not due until November 2019 at the latest. -BBC

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