Benjamin Netanyahu avoids early election as key ally stays

Minnie Murray
November 20, 2018

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 nearly 500 rockets into Israel on Monday and Tuesday and Israel carried out dozens of air raids.

The Debka file said, in a report on Saturday, that its sources had identified the type of modern missiles used by Hamas in recent attacks on the Israeli-occupied territories that inflicted considerable damage and casualties on the regime and forced the Israeli government to accept a ceasefire with the Palestinians.

But Mr Bennett said his party was ready to give the prime minister another chance.

His resignation left the coalition with 61 members in the 120-seat parliament, making it likely to collapse if another party decides to quit. But without a partner in Bennett to bring down the government, it's unclear how hard he will push for its toppling.

Bennett's shift comes after Netanyahu, in a prime-time speech Sunday night, said he would not make Bennett defense minister.

"We are ready for all challenges", the prime minister said.

An opinion poll last week suggested that Israelis were unhappy with the four-term prime minister over Gaza, causing a rare dip in his popularity ratings. Israeli jets struck about 160 targets in the Palestinian enclave.

If it leaves the coalition, Mr Netanyahu will lose his parliamentary majority.

"Israel's politics is in the hands of Hamas", he said.

Yesterday, he continued with his more aggressive tone.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday dropped his threat to withdraw his Jewish Home party from the coalition government.

"I tell the prime minister here: we are withdrawing right now all of our political demands and will stand to help you in this great mission of getting Israel to win again", he said. I know what to do and when to do it. It is not the end of the world.

Both Bennett and Kahlon, along with Shas chairman Aryeh Deri have said the country is better off holding elections as soon as possible. Explaining his backtracking, Bennett referred to calls among his supporters not to bring down the Government, considered the most right-wing in Israel's history.

On Monday, after a weekend of speculation that an election was on the way, Netanyahu called an impromptu news conference. We are in the midst of a campaign and you don't pull out in the middle of a campaign or play politics.

Another factor in eventual elections is the possibility that Netanyahu could be indicted in an ongoing corruption probe. With important dates coming up, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in March, Israel's national days in early May and even the forthcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, there will be many opportunities for Netanyahu to regain some of his lost support. "It's irresponsible", Netanyahu said.

Mr Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

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