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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends an annual state memorial ceremony for Israels first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, at his gravesite in Sde Boker Israel, November 14, 2018.(Photo by: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
Netanyahu trying to avoid snap election after Liberman quits
Bennett threatens to leave coalition if not made defense minister.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began talks with leaders of the remaining coalition parties to try to keep his government stable on Wednesday afternoon, following Avigdor Liberman’s announcement that he is resigning from the Defense Ministry and removing Yisrael Beytenu from the coalition.

The Bayit Yehudi faction voted to demand that Education Minister Naftali Bennett become defense minister, or it will quit the coalition.

“A government without deterrence is not a right- wing government. Without taking responsibility for the national mission of changing the security situation, there is no reason for the government to exist,” a statement from the party said. The statement came after senior Likud sources said Netanyahu plans to take on the defense portfolio – in addition to the Foreign and Health ministries that he already heads. The prime minister automatically retains any portfolio if a minister resigns, until he appoints someone else to it. Should Netanyahu remain defense minister, he would be the first person to hold that position and the positions of prime minister and foreign minister simultaneously. He will also take on the Aliyah and ntegration Ministry, since Sofa Landver is leaving the coalition with Yisrael Beytenu.

The Likud source also said the coalition can live out its days until the legal election date of November 2019, even after Yisrael Beytenu leaves.

However, the chance that the coalition will survive much longer seemed very low, in light of the conflicting statements.

With Yisrael Beytenu out, the coalition will be left with only 61 seats, even if Netanyahu acquiesces to Bennett’s demand, meaning a one-vote majority will be difficult to maintain, especially if highly contested legislation such as haredi conscription goes to vote.

In addition, several top Likud MKs began jostling for the position of defense minister. Intelligence Minister Israel Katz and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman and for - mer Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Avi Dichter are both thought to be vying for the job. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s office denied that he had made any demands for the position.

Meanwhile, the opposition began working on the assumption that an election is on the way. Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson called on the coalition to coordinate an election date with his party.

Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay said “good riddance” to Liberman and “Netanyahu should be next. He’s the one who promised to take down Hamas and turned into [Hamas leaders] Haniyeh and Sinwar’s insurance policy.”

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said he’s ready for an election: “Today, the countdown begins. Today, the journey begins to bring back the security, responsibility and leadership to Israel.” Lapid said Netanyahu is the first prime minister “to tell citizens that they’re being shot at and he doesn’t know what to do. Israel lost its deterrence against all its enemies.”
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