Published: Sun, November 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Israel to hold early elections

Israel to hold early elections

Earlier Netanyahu met with key coalition partner Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party, who had sought the post for himself, but the two men emerged without an agreement.

The party stopped short of pulling out of the government, which would have triggered an immediate collapse, but there seemed to be little prospect of holding the fractious coalition together.

"The prime minister told minister Bennett that rumours that a decision has been made to go to elections are not correct", the statement said.

"As things stand, the best thing for the citizens of Israel and the Israeli economy is to hold elections as soon as possible", Times of Israel quoted Kahlon telling Netanyahu, citing sources close to the finance minister.

Israel's outgoing defense minister has warned that Hamas is only growing in strength in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Pressures were mounting on Netanyahu to call for early elections amid turmoil sparked by Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman's resignation following an agreed ceasefire with Gaza. Liberman had openly opposed a ceasefire reached with Gaza one day earlier that ended the worst 24 hours of fighting since the 2014 war, advocating instead for a harsher blow against Hamas, the militant group that controls the coastal enclave. Israeli law demands election campaigns need to be held 90 days from when the government is dissolved.

Bennett, Netanyahu's other main right-wing rival and head of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party, has threatened to quit unless he is given Lieberman's job. He was questioned as a suspect in a third investigation.

Government figures would agree on a date on Sunday, the source added. However, opinion polls cited by Reuters show that Likud would likely remain the dominant party after a parliamentary election.

But the crisis may pose a new challenge for the Israeli leader, since it appears he is being led to call early elections, instead of calling them on his own.

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