Monday 16 September 2019

Netanyahu in last ditch bid to save Israeli coalition

Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to convince finance minister Moshe Kahlon and his centrist Kulanu party to stay in the coalition.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Abir Sultan/Pool via AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Abir Sultan/Pool via AP)

By Aron Heller, Associated Press

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is heading into a meeting with his top coalition partner in a “last effort” to prevent the collapse of his government.

Mr Netanyahu’s administration has been rocked by the resignation of its defence minister Avigdor Lieberman over a ceasefire agreement with Gaza militants.

Speaking at his weekly Cabinet meeting, Mr Netanyahu said it would be unwise to embark on a divisive election campaign during such a sensitive time for Israeli security.

He said he would try to convince finance minister Moshe Kahlon and his centrist Kulanu party to stay in the coalition.

“It would be both unnecessary and incorrect to go to elections. We remember well what happened when elements inside the coalitions took down Likud governments in 1992 and in 1999,” Mr Netanyahu said, noting the past two elections in which the Labour Party came to power.

“We need to do everything we can to prevent repeating these mistakes,” he added.

The sudden coalition crisis was sparked by the resignation of Mr Lieberman, who had demanded a far stronger response last week to the most massive wave of rocket attacks on Israel since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.

Avigdor Lieberman quit as Israel’s defence minister (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

He alleges the truce will put southern Israel under a growing threat from Hamas, similar to that posed to northern Israel by Lebanon’s heavily armed Hezbollah group.

The departure of Mr Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party leaves the coalition with a one-seat majority in the 120-member parliament. Mr Netanyahu’s other partners say that makes governing untenable and would leave the coalition susceptible to the extortion of any single MP until elections scheduled for November 2019.

Education minister Naftali Bennett, of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, has already threatened to bring down the government if he is not appointed defence minister. Mr Kahlon says another year of such instability will harm the economy.

Mr Netanyahu is trying to convince them to stay, and his Likud allies are already preparing to pin the blame on them if that effort fails.

“I think that there is no reason to shorten the term of a national government, not even for one day, and at this moment it’s in the hands of the education minister and the finance minister,” said Gilad Erdan, the minister of public security.

No Israeli government has served out its full term since 1988. Since then, elections have almost always been moved up because of a coalition crisis or a strategic move by the prime minister to maximize his chances of re-election.

PA Media

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