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Netanyahu's largest coalition partner runs for early elections

JERUSALEM – Israel Friday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's largest coalition partner, ultranationalist Jewish home party, said it wanted a…

JERUSALEM – Israel Friday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s largest coalition partner, ultranationalist Jewish home party, said it wanted a vote “as soon as possible” and will press for consultation on a date on Sunday.

Call for early elections came after a meeting between Netanyahu and Education Minister and Jewish Home Secretary Naftali Bennett on Friday. The two men have been locked in a tense rivalry, with Bennett often criticizing Netanyahu from the right.

Bennett demanded the post of defense minister, after commander Avigdor Lieberman, resigned earlier this week in protest over Netanyahu’s Gaza policy.

A leading Jewish home manager said it was clear after the Bennett-Netanyahu meeting that “there is a need to go to the election as soon as possible”. He spoke on terms of anonymity because he discussed the content of a closed meeting

The official said that leaders of coalition parties will meet Sunday to coordinate date of early elections.

The apparent failure of the Netanyahu-Bennett meeting seemed to seal the fate of the coalition.

Liebermans and his Israeli Beitenu Party had left the coalition with a one-majority in the 120th parliament. Without Bennett’s Jewish home, Netanyahu’s coalition would lose its parliamentary majority.

The political crisis began with a botched Israeli undercover raid in Gaza on Sunday. The raid led to two days of intense cross-border battles. Gaza’s rulers ruled hundreds of rockets in southern Israel, while Israeli war roads aimed at targets in Gaza.

After two days, Egypt broke an informal violence between Israel and the Islamic militant Hamas. Netanyahu despised a war, but drew blowing criticism from ultra-nationalists.

Lieberman resigned on Wednesday.

On Friday he turret southern Israel and accused Netanyahu of being soft against terrorism. He said that Netanyahu’s Gaza policy strengthens Hamas.

Lieberman claimed that violence would put southern Israel under a growing threat from Hamas, similar to the threat posed by the Lebanese heavily armed Hezbollah militia to northern Israel. “It is impossible that after Hamas launches 500 rockets in the Israeli border areas. The Heads of Hamas actually get immunity from the Israeli cabinet, he told reporters.”

“We are feeding a monster,” which will only grow if not stopped, he said. “Within one year, we will have a twin brother to Hezbollah, with all the consequences.”

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