Israel's Netanyahu makes 'last effort' to save government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Shaked ripped into Netanyahu in his speech, implying that he put personal vendettas before politics.

The departure of Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party leaves the coalition with a one-seat majority in the 120-member parliament.

Bennett, a security hawk, had considered following the footsteps of Netanyahu's defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who left the Israeli government to protest against Netanyahu's decision to agree to a truce with the rulers of Gaza, Hamas. Since then, elections have nearly always been moved up because of a coalition crisis or a strategic move by the prime minister to maximise his chances of re-election.

Netanyahu succeeded in buying himself some time, but the question of how to deal with Gaza will remain explosive, said Hebrew University political scientist Gideon Rahat, a senior associate at the Israel Democracy Institute. I am protecting us, our country, our children.

Col. Alon Madanes
Col. Alon Madanes

Last week, Hamas announced an Egypt-brokered ceasefire with Israel to halt escalating hostilities, which resumed after Palestinian militants launched rockets at Israel in retaliation for seven militants killed during an Israeli special forces operation.

The national-religious Jewish Home party, which now holds eight seats, had demanded that the defense post be given to Bennett in the wake of Liberman's resignation - a move that is widely disapproved of by the Israeli public - or face a coalition breakdown.

In a speech late on Sunday, Netanyahu urged coalition partners not to bring down the government, citing security challenges ahead and hinting at future action by Israelagainst its enemies.

He also spoke of his military experience and said he could not publicly explain in detail the sensitive security moves now being taken by Israel.

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The education minister also criticised Netanyahu for allowing residents of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank, to stay in place despite a high court approving the village's demolition. Kahlon says he believes it is not possible to continue with the existing coalition.

But the release date is now likely to be influenced by the political crisis in Israel that has expected to spark early elections, Axios reported, citing unnamed USA officials. "I saw the confusion, I saw the bewilderment, I saw the lack of determination, and the absence of morale". He then said to the heads of the parties making up his coalition: "At such a time, you don't overthrow a government".

Were elections to be held now, Netanyahu's Likud party would still win by a landslide, a survey conducted by Hadashot revealed on Wednesday.

Speaking at a Monday press-conference along with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who sought to replace Avigdor Lieberman as defence minister, said that neither he, nor Shaked would resign despite the previous threats. Mr Bennett accepted that but called on Mr Netanyahu to be more right-wing in his leadership.

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The crisis was set into motion with Lieberman's resignation over the ceasefire, which he labelled "capitulating to terror".

The polls come two days after Hadashot TV aired the results of a Saturday night poll showing that 53% of Israelis felt the political situation warranted early elections, while 32% felt it did not, with 15% responding that they did not know.

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