Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening session of the Knesset, October 15, 2018.
(photo credit: ESTI DESIOVOV/TPS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to try to stop an early election and convince his coalition partners to keep the government together.
Netanyahu is set to meet with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon Sunday morning in a final attempt to convince him not to topple the government.
“If Kulanu does not bring down the government, we have a government. We cannot topple a right-wing government,” Netanyahu wrote on twitter. “All of the Likud faction’s members are interested in continuing to serve the country for another year, until the term ends in November 2019.”
After Avigdor Liberman resigned from the Defense Ministry and pulled his Yisrael Beytenu party from the coalition on Thursday, leaving it with a one-seat majority, Kahlon called for an election to be held as soon as possible. Soon after, Interior Minister Arye Deri said that, in light of Kahlon’s statement, he says the same.On Friday, Netanyahu met with Education Minister Naftali Bennett
and said it seemed that the coalition could not survive with 61 seats and an early election was inevitable, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting.
However, in the statement released by his office after the meeting, Netanyahu said he told Bennett “the rumors that a decision has been made to go to an early election are not correct.”
Netanyahu also said he will retain the defense portfolio, which automatically reverted to him after Liberman resigned from the position. Bennett’s ultimatum for his Bayit Yehudi party to remain in the coalition was for him to become defense minister.
The prime minister also warned of repeating the precedent of 1992, in which a right-wing party left the coalition, Labor won the subsequent election, and then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords.
Sources close to the Bayit Yehudi leader said following the meeting that it was clear that it was not possible for the current government to continue functioning.
The Bayit Yehudi sources said this was a result of Kahlon’s resolute position on the matter – perhaps in an attempt to avoid the accusation Netanyahu and others in the Likud were making of repeating the mistakes of 1992.
Meanwhile, United Torah Judaism has yet to put out any kind of statement about an early election, but their seven seats are not enough to save Netanyahu’s government.
Despite his pleas, Netanyahu’s meetings with party leaders next week will likely be focused on reaching an agreed-upon date for the election.
Kahlon, Deri and Bennett all called for the vote to take place as soon as possible. Legally – assuming the Knesset can be dispersed in the coming week – that would be February 19. However, Kahlon is aiming for a March date. March 12 or 26 would be the likely dates, because the Purim holiday falls on March 21.
Netanyahu prefers to wait until May. May 21 or 28 are the only likely dates because Remembrance Day, Independence Day and the Eurovision song competition are earlier that month.