Israel's Netanyahu says early election must be avoided

Frederick Owens
November 19, 2018

On Sunday evening, Israel's embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there was no room for politics amid "a military campaign" in Gaza, as he tried to maintain his disintegrating ruling coalition.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett has said he will keep his party in government, averting the prospect of early elections in the country.

Netanyahu's decision to appoint himself interim defense minister represents a response to cabinet member Naftali Bennett's demand that he be installed in the position, contradicting earlier reports on Sunday by Israel's Channel 13 that Netanyahu was prepared to give the Jewish Home Party chairman the position.

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in the cases against him, contending he's the victim of a leftist cabal that wants to bring down his conservative government.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken over as Defence Minister.

"This attempt to hide narrow political aspirations behind security considerations will fail".

"He's conservative in the sense that if you really don't need to change anything don't", she says.

The longtime premier made the appearance as he came under pressure over a controversial ceasefire deal last week that ended the worst escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.

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

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

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.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, another senior partner, said another year of such instability will harm the economy. Netanyahu is trying to convince them to stay.

"We remember well what happened when sources from within the coalition caused the government's dissolution in 1992 and 1999, leading to the Oslo disaster and the disaster of the Second Intifada", Netanyahu argued, during a government meeting on Sunday.

Axios reported the so-called peace team has been readying the content for weeks, and the meeting was scheduled a month ago. According to a Hadashot News poll Saturday, Netanyahu's Likud would remain the dominant party if elections were held today, with its representation stable at 30 seats; Bennett's Jewish Home party would rise slightly to 10 seats and Kahlon's Kulanu would fall from 10 seats to eight. I saw the confusion, saw the lack of certainty, saw the indecision, saw the absence of spirit. When Jewish Home threatened to leave the government if Bennett was not appointed in Lieberman's place, early elections seemed nearly inevitable.

He then said to the heads of the parties making up his coalition: "At such a time, you don't overthrow a government".

The national-religious Jewish Home party, which now holds eight seats, had demanded that the defense post be given to Bennett in the wake of Liberman's resignation - a move that is widely disapproved of by the Israeli public - or face a coalition breakdown.

However, Bennett did express some doubts about Netanyahu's true intentions.

Netanyahu approached the podium without ado and started his nine-minute speech, addressed to the citizens of Israel, with a retelling of his army experience, his fallen comrades and his hero brother, Yoni.

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