‘I’ll be defense minister,’ declares Netanyahu

The Israeli prime minister railed against staging elections in the middle of a highly volatile security situation.


Now is not the time to go to early elections while Israel is amidst one of the “most complex” security situations it has known in its history, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday evening at a press conference in Tel Aviv as he declared he would take up the post of defense minister vacated by Avigdor Liberman last week, when he resigned over the government’s Gaza policy throwing the coalition into crisis.

Minutes before Netanyahu addressed the nation on prime time television, Jewish Home leader an Education Minister Naftali Bennett and his deputy, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, said they would be holding a press conference at 10 a.m. Monday.

Shaked said earlier this week that if Bennett was not appointed defense minister, the Jewish Home would pull out of the coalition, effectively bringing down the government which has a narrow 61-59 majority in the 120 seat Knesset, following Liberman’s resignation.

Prior to the press conference, Netanyahu met with his finance minister Moshe Kahlon, head of the Kulanu party to try and persuade him to remain in the coalition. Sources close to Kahlon said that the meeting failed to yield and agreement, but the two leaders would meet again later in the week.

Both Bennett and Kahlon, along with Shas chairman Aryeh Deri have said the country is better off holding elections as soon as possible.

“We are in the midst of one of the most complex security situations, and at a time like this one does not go to elections,” Netanyahu said. “At a time like this one does not bring down the government. That would be irresponsible. We have a year left until elections. We are in the midst of a campaign and in the midst of a campaign one does not jump ship. In the midst of a campaign, one does not play politics. The country’s security is beyond politics and the country’s security is beyond personal considerations. That is why I am making every effort to prevent early and unnecessary elections.”

Netanyahu said he had spoken to the leaders of the coalition parties and told them that now was the time to “show responsibility.”

“I told them do not bring down the government, especially at such a sensitive time from a security perspective,” Netanyahu said. “I told them they must not repeat the mistake of 1992 when a Likud government was brought down and replaced with a government that brought us the Oslo disaster. I told them that they must not repeat the mistake of 1999 when factions within the government brought it down and it was replaced with a government that brought us the Intifada.”

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