Netanyahu Keeps Coalition as Hawkish Rival Gets Back in Line


Assuming the position of Defense Minister after several high-profile resignations, Israeli Pime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has, for the sake of national security, warned remaining ministers against pushing for an early election.

The future of Netanyahu's coalition government has been in crisis since Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned last Wednesday over a ceasefire deal that followed the worst escalation in violence between Israeli and Palestinian fighters in Gaza since the 2014 war.

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

After meeting with his Kulanu party Monday, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said a coalition with 61 members can not hold.

"It is not launched from stationary batteries, but from any combat 4×4 vehicle or jeep, each of which carries two rockets", said the report, adding that the main advantage of the missiles was its mobility which allowed Hamas to fire them from any area in the Gaza Strip without Israeli radars noticing them.

The Israeli government looked to be on the brink of collapse Monday morning after Mr Netanyahu refused demands from the Jewish Home party to give them control of the defence ministry.

"I will not say this evening when we will act and how".

Commentators in Israel accused Mr Netanyahu of hypocrisy in trumpeting security over politics while refusing to appoint a new defence chief to oversee the Gaza portfolio.

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Early elections have loomed since March, when Netanyahu's fragile coalition was sent into a tailspin after the head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party Yaakov Litzman threatened not to support the government's 2019 state budget if a draft bill to exempt religious Jews from military conscription was not approved. This is one of the most complex periods we have experienced, he said yesterday, and this is not a time to go to elections. "I saw the confusion, I saw the bewilderment, I saw the lack of determination, and the absence of morale".

Netanyahu met Bennett on Friday, but conflicting reports emerged. When a truce was reached through United Nations and Egyptian mediation on Tuesday, Lieberman blasted the deal as "capitulation to terror" and quit.

Gaza-based Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said Sunday at a memorial service for terrorist fighters killed last week during a clash with IDF soldiers that despite the agreement with Israel worked out by Egypt, Hamas "would not sell its blood for diesel and dollars".

The polls come two days after Hadashot TV aired the results of a Saturday night poll showing that 53% of Israelis felt the political situation warranted early elections, while 32% felt it did not, with 15% responding that they did not know.

An impassioned television address on Sunday and another speech in the Israeli parliament delivered moments before the pair spoke did enough for Mr Netanyahu, Israel's second-longest serving leader, to survive another day.

Bennett said he believes he will pay a "political price" in the coming months for his decision.

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