Netanyahu urges coalition partners not to bring down government
* Defence chief's resignation over Gaza triggered crisis
* Coalition partners pushing for snap election
* Netanyahu has said wants to complete term ending in
(Recasts with Netanyahu comments)
By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu urged his coalition partners on Sunday not to
bring down the government, citing security challenges ahead and
hinting at future Israeli military action against its enemies.
Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, has been
making last-ditch efforts to avoid the collapse of the
government, weakened by the resignation of his defence minister.
Political pundits predict a snap vote could come as soon as
March, instead of November as scheduled.
"I spoke with all the coalition heads. I told them this is
the time to show responsibility - don't bring down the
government, especially not at this security-sensitive time," he
said in televised remarks.
Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman's resignation, announced
on Wednesday over what he described as the government's lenient
policy towards an upsurge of cross-border violence with
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, left the government
with a majority of only one seat in parliament.
That put the fate of Netanyahu's coalition at the mercy of
its partners, who have seen the four-term prime minister's
popularity take a rare hit in an opinion poll that showed
Israelis were unhappy with him over Gaza.
Earlier Netanyahu met with his finance minister, Moshe
Kahlon of the centre-right Kulanu party, who has urged setting
an early election date.
Hitting back at criticism of his decision to accept a
ceasefire with Gaza's rulers Hamas, Netanyahu dropped heavy
hints about a future Israeli military offensive.
"We have an entire year until the election. We are in the
midst of a campaign and you don't pull out in the middle of a
campaign or play politics. State security is beyond politics,"
he said. "I will not say this evening when we will act and how.
I have a clear plan. I know what to do and when to do it. And we
will do it."
Kahlon said on Saturday that governing with a one-seat
majority was unsustainable.
His call was echoed by members of the nationalist Jewish
Home whose head, Naftali Bennett, asked to succeed Lieberman as
defence chief but was turned down by Netanyahu who kept the job
Minutes before Netanyahu's speech, Jewish Home announced
that Bennett and another minister from his party would make an
announcement in parliament on Monday, raising speculation they
would resign and strip the prime minister of his majority.
A poll published on Wednesday by Hadashot TV news showed
Likud falling to 29 from 30 parliamentary seats after months of
polls that have shown it gaining power.
Only 17 percent of respondents were happy with Netanyahu's
policy toward Gaza, where he agreed to a ceasefire - dubbed by
Lieberman as "surrender" - after militants from its ruling Hamas
group launched almost 500 rockets into Israel on Monday and
Tuesday and Israel carried out dozens of air raids.
Netanyahu's re-election chances could also be affected by a
series of corruption cases against him in which Israel's
attorney-general is weighing his indictment.
An election would complicate promised moves by the United
States towards reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts that
collapsed in 2014. The Trump administration has said it would
unveil a peace plan soon.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell
Editing by Andrew Heavens, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and David
First Published: 2018-11-18 19:18:46
Updated 2018-11-18 21:15:21
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