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Netanyahu Coalition Partner unites push for early elections

TEL AVIV – The leader of a key party in Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling coalition on Friday was…

TEL AVIV – The leader of a key party in Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition on Friday was driven for early elections, according to people familiar with the issue, and put pressure on Netanyahu as he tries to preserve his government.

Naftali Bennett, the head of the Conservative Jewish Home Party, who has applied for the post of defense minister, met Netanyahu on Friday and now believes there is no possibility of continuing the current government, according to people close to him.

Mr. Netanyahu’s government was wounded earlier this week by Avigdor Liebermans, the resignation of the hard defense minister. The struggle to replace him has opened a split within Netanyahu, who has refrained from coalition partner talks for a harder response to months of conflicts with Hamas and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Bennett was denied the job in his meeting with the prime minister, according to the close to him.

He joins other members of the Netanyahu coalition, including Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon of the Kulanu Party and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of the Sha Party, in backing moving for early elections.

Despite the pressure of his coalition partner, Netanyahu is striving to save his government and spent Friday trying to persuade the heads of the other parties in his government not to vote in favor. Netanyahu has adopted the defense ministry’s portfolio himself and has said that he would maintain it at the moment, given the security challenges facing Israel.

According to Israeli law, elections are required in November 201

9. A coalition meeting on Sunday appears critical to determine the fate of the Netanyahu government. The prime minister’s cooperation partner is in favor of the election to push for election at the beginning of next year or try to keep the coalition as long as possible.

Snap elections can be called if Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, passes a special law to invoke an early vote. Alternatively, Mr Netanyahu has the power to solve the Knesset.

The prompt for snap elections then triggers a 60- to 90-day process involving primary races among Israel’s major parties. As a result, if a snap election is called in the coming days, the very latest elections should be done in late February.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at [email protected]

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