Early election rumors swirl, but Netanyahu denies coalition crumbling

The Jewish Home Party is leaving the coalition, forcing early elections, according to reports. But Netanyahu says the rumors aren’t true.

By World Israel News Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main coalition partner, the Jewish Home Party, announced it’s seeking elections “as soon as possible” and wants a date set on Sunday.

The news came after the Jewish Home Party’s chairman and current education minister, Naftali Bennett, met with Netanyahu on Friday.

The Associated Press quotes an unnamed Jewish Home official who said it became clear after the Bennett-Netanyahu meeting that there “is a need to go to elections as soon as possible.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing the content of a closed meeting.

The Jewish Home party official said leaders of the coalition parties will meet Sunday to coordinate the date for early elections.

However, Netanyahu denied the reports, according to a spokesman, who quoted the prime minister saying, “the rumors that a decision has been made to go to an early election are not correct.”

Media in Israel are reporting that the reason the Jewish Home Party is leaving is because Netanyahu rejected Bennett’s demand that he be made minister of defense.

Coalition members split

On Thursday, Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon, whose Kulanu party is part of the coalition, met with Netanyahu. He said that it was in the country’s best interest to dissolve the government and hold elections.

“In the current situation, the right thing for the citizens of Israel and the Israeli economy is to go to an election as soon as possible,” Kahlon advised.

Khalon said that coalition instability would delay projects and legislation would be held up, making early elections the best option.

Also on Thursday, Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri of the Shas party called on Netanyahu to dissolve the government.

The Degel Hatorah party, on the other hand, said Thursday that Netanyahu should maintain the coalition and give Bennett the defense portfolio.

The government crisis was brought on by the sudden resignation of Avigdor Lieberman from the post of minister of defense earlier this week. He called Netanyahu’s Gaza-Hamas policy “a capitulation to terror” in a press conference Wednesday.

Associated Press contributed to this report.