Wednesday, 24 Apr 2019 - 19 of Nisan, 5779

Israeli prime minister denies rumors of early elections

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Ongoing speculation revolves around the Jewish Home Party, headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leaving the governing coalition.

By JNS and EJP

JERUSALEM—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied rumors of an early election amid ongoing speculation that the Jewish Home Party headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett will leave the governing coalition.

According to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu said that “rumors that a decision to go to elections had been made were incorrect.”

Netanyahu added that he “trusts the ministers not to topple a right-wing government and not to repeat the historic mistake of ’92, when they toppled a right-wing government, put the left in power and brought the Oslo disaster on the State of Israel.”

The statement by Netanyahu comes amid reports on Friday that Bennett will leave the government, triggering early elections, after failing to secure an appointment as defense minister following Avigdor Lieberman’s decision to leave the post earlier this week over the strategy concerning Gaza. He said that the government had “capitulated to terrorism” by agreeing to a ceasefire with Hamas after the latest round of hostilities earlier this week in which the Gaza factions fired over 450 rockets into southern Israel in a 48-hour period.

Netanyahu’s coalition currently stands at a razor-thin majority of 61 seats out of 120 following Lieberman’s decision to pull his Yisrael Beytenu Party out of the government. If Jewish Home were to leave, that would reduce the government to only 53 seats, which would trigger a vote of no confidence and collapse the government.

Netanyahu spoke by phone Friday with the heads of all the coalition parties and asked them to help him avoid what he says could be potentially disastrous early elections.

It was reported earlier that Netanyahu told Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett that he will not appoint him as defense minister as he demanded. He had asked to be given the defense portfolio and vowed to “bring renewal and creativity to the role.”

“Israel is in one of its most dangerous periods. We have begun to think that there is no solution to terrorists and rockets, but there is a solution,” said Bennett, “When Israel wants to start winning again, it will,” he added.

Earlier, Finance Minister Kahlon of the Kulanu party told Netanyahu that “the right thing for the citizens of Israel and the Israeli economy” would be to hold general elections as soon as possible. Arie Deri, leader of Shas party met with Netanyahu and also called on the Prime Minister to schedule elections at the earliest possible date.

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