Israel heading for early elections after turbulent week for Netanyahu

Lamar Ellis
November 18, 2018

Bennett's withdrawal from the coalition would leave Netanyahu without the minimum 61 seats needed to govern, making elections inevitable and ending a government that lasted almost four years.

A source close to Bennett told Reuters that failure to reach an agreement could lead to early elections, as "there was a need to go to elections as soon as possible with no possibility of continuing the current government".

As the coalition started teeter, Mr Netanyahu issued a last-minute call for unity and warned that it would be "a historic mistake" for Right-wing parties to bring down his government.

Tuesday's ceasefire ended the heaviest fighting between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers since a 2014 war.

They called for tougher action against Hamas which has portrayed the ceasefire and Lieberman's resignation as a victory.

The deadlock was revealed by Israel's Channel 10 news, which reported that Netanyahu told ministers that Bennett's ultimatum was "the main stumbling block to keeping the coalition together".

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The PM's move fueled speculation of an early election.

A source from Jewish Home party said that Netanyahu informed Bennett that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon would leave the coalition if Bennett was appointed defense minister.

Netanyahu - flanked by Kahlon, Interior Minister Arie Deri and army top brass - met with the leaders of Israeli border communities Thursday and discussed a 500 million shekel ($139 million, 119 million euro) two-year package to improve emergency medical and social services, a government statement said. Polls have repeatedly projected that Netanyahu's Likud party would increase its number of seats if early elections are held.

By law, the government must choose an election date within three to five months, making March or May the most likely time for elections.

But Yisrael Hayom said Bennett was key to efforts to avoid an early election and could yet prove Netanyahu's political salvation.

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