Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Israeli politicians suspect Netanyahu seeks election to survive corruption probes

Israeli politicians suspect Netanyahu seeks election to survive corruption probes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right coalition government has long insisted that they would serve out their term without early elections, but after several other disputes, the coalition again seems on the brink of collapse, with Netanyahu holding some last-minute meetings to try to avoid an early vote.

The ultra-Orthodox threatened to torpedo the 2019 state budget if the conscription bill did not pass on preliminary reading this week, and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon had threatened to quit if the budget is not passed. It also removes the possibility that Netanyahu will need to sack any members of his government, a move that would have been seen as making Parliament's dissolution all but inevitable.

Addressing opposition MKs, he told them that they "want the government to remain because [they're] afraid of elections".

"The citizens of the state [need us to hold] elections as soon as possible in order to replace the current government with those who would act in the best interests of the state and not out of his attempts to extricate himself from an indictment", added Ofer Shelah, an MK with the opposition centrist Yesh Atid party.

Israel's prime minister held emergency negotiations with key coalition partners on Sunday in hopes of averting a crisis that has threatened to plunge the country into early elections.

"I said that the nuclear agreement with Iran contains within it many dangers for the world, including the special danger of the nuclearization of the Middle East", Netanyahu said, according to a statement released on his behalf.

In his speech, Netanyahu made no mention of the scandals, but said he had no fears of holding a new election. The Ministerial Committee is expected to discuss the appeal on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a controversial bill that would essentially allow haredi yeshiva students to be exempt from the draft.

Lieberman slammed the bill.

Lieberman vowed on Tuesday that his Yisrael Beitenu party would "vote as one against the bill" as it stands now.

Although Lieberman has enjoyed a healthy working relationship with Netanyahu and his similarly conservative Likud party, a schism has persistently existed in the coalition between secular parties like Yisrael Beiteinu and orthodox parties like The Jewish Home, Shas and UTJ.

Netanyahu could call for early elections, both as a way to shore up his narrow coalition and affirm his public standing in the face of multiple corruption charges.

Israeli police have recommended indicting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases and his close associates have been implicated in another case.

President Donald Trump reportedly informed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the United States will not be flexible with European powers in negotiating changes to the stipulations and limitations around Iran's nuclear program.

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