Netanyahu Coalition Chaos Deepens As Israeli Lawmaker Debate Early Elections

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Economic Club of Washington, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
AP/Jose Luis Magana

JERUSALEM – The so-called Israeli coalition crisis has lawmakers on the fence about whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should call early elections or not amid the threat of an indictment and contention over a draft bill that has parties in the coalition pitted against each other.

The prime minister on Monday attempted to shut down rumors that new elections are his way of garnering support ahead of a possible indictment on corruption charges, insisting that he has no desire to go to the polls. However, he added that were new elections held, his ruling Likud party would win.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) warned Netanyahu against calling early elections, saying that doing so would bring down a right-wing government.

“This is a bogus crisis. To topple a right-wing government over nothing would be a historic mistake similar in scope to the fall of the Shamir government in 1992,” tweeted Shaked, referring to then-prime minister Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud-led coalition, which collapsed and yielded the way for late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and the doomed Oslo Accords.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has warned that if Netanyahu fires Yisrael Beytenu Minister Sofa Landver over her opposition to the military exemption bill, new elections would be held.

“If the prime minister doesn’t want elections he won’t fire Minister Landver. If he fires her, we’re on the way to elections,” he was quoted by Israel Radio as saying on Tuesday.

Landver will on Tuesday present her appeal against a decision to allow the Knesset to vote on the controversial bill to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. A vote can occur as early as Tuesday evening if the committee overrules her appeal.

Earlier Tuesday, Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud) told Army Radio, “Likud and the prime minister aren’t interested in elections but also aren’t worried about them. In order to end the crisis all the pieces of the coalition need to unconditionally withdraw their ultimatums.”

“The coalition parties challenged the prime minister and threatened to run against him. This is impossible. A state must be managed. Everyone has political ambitions, but they must be put aside for the right time,” said Katz, in apparent reference to Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett’s threat that he would only sit in a future government with Netanyahu if he is appointed defense minister.

The military bill is backed by the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, and is seen by its opponents — including Liberman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon — as giving the ultra-Orthodox sector a legal way to dodge the draft. UTJ has threatened it would derail the 2019 state budget by refusing to vote on it if the bill isn’t passed. Kahlon said in response that he would pull his Kulanu party out of the government if the budget isn’t passed this week before the Knesset session ends.

Meanwhile, new polls released Monday showed that if elections were held today, Likud would remain in power with the same amount of seats, the centrist Yesh Atid would come in second and main opposition party the Zionist Union would lose around half its seats.


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