TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will remain defense minister and there will be no early elections at a time when Israel finds itself in a sensitive security situation, the premier said in a highly anticipated speech Sunday night.
“At a time like this, we do not topple a government, we do not go to elections, it’s irresponsible, we have another year until the elections, we are in the middle of a campaign and in the middle of the campaign we are not abandoning,” Netanyahu said in a coy reference to alleged covert operations against Gaza-based terror groups.
“I know what to do and when to do it,” he added.
“There is no place for politics or personal considerations” when it comes to Israel’s security, he said. “I have made every effort to prevent unnecessary early elections in recent days.”
Netanyahu said that dismantling the government at this time would put the coalition in danger of making the same mistake it did in 1992, when the Likud government was overthrown, paving the way for Yitzchak Rabin to become prime minister and launch the “disastrous” Oslo peace process.
Later, in 1999, the same thing happened when the Likud government was replaced with a Labor government, “which saw the Second Intifada and the deaths of more than 1,000 people,” he said.
“I hope that all the [coalition] partners will prove themselves responsible and not attempt to topple the government. I believe we must continue together for the sake of the State of Israel and for the security of Israel,” Netanyahu stated.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced earlier that he and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked would call a press briefing for Monday morning. Many commentators have speculated that Bennett, affronted that Netanyahu did not offer him the defense ministry, will announce that his Jewish Home party is leaving the government — thereby forcing early elections.