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Liberman to Netanyahu: No need to initiate early elections

13 March 2018

Israel's prime minister is holding emergency negotiations with key coalition partners in hopes of averting a crisis that has threatened to plunge the country into early elections. But Netanyahu has seen his fortunes improve in recent polls, with his base appearing to rally behind him amid the mounting graft accusations.

During remarks at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said his discussions with United States President Donald Trump and other officials in Washington last week focused mainly on Iran.

"If there are elections, we will win - but we are not there yet", he said. "But we're not there yet", Netanyahu said later on Monday.

While Pence's announcement echoed President Trump's declaration that he had re-certified the deal in January "for the last time", the president later set a deadline of May 12 for negotiations between the U.S. and the "European Three" (the UK, France and Germany) in hopes of securing a better deal, though Iranian leaders have adamantly declared that they won't accept any modifications to the original deal.

Some in Netanyahu's right-wing coalition suggested the prime minister was deliberately allowing the crisis to worsen to expedite elections for personal reasons.

But while Netanyahu's future dominates the conversation, the resolution of the crisis hinges on separate, more technical issues.

But in a late meeting yesterday, ultra-Orthodox factions told Netanyahu they would agree to support the budget if the military conscription bill passed the ministerial committee and an initial parliamentary reading, postponing a final vote until the summer session.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is meanwhile insisting that the budget be approved before the end of this week.

A compromise has been seeking to balance those divergent interests.

The Knesset plenum voted 59-38 in favor of the bill, which would exempt ultra-Orthodox seminary students from the military draft.

Landver appealed the committee's decision, however, forcing the committee to hold a hearing on the matter at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday evening, just after the Knesset hears arguments on the four motions to dissolve itself.

Lieberman slammed the bill.

Liberman has vowed that not one Yisrael Beiteinu lawmaker will vote to approve the haredi conscription legislation, though he says his party will not consider bolting the coalition until the bill is actually approved by the parliament.

"Can elections still be prevented?"

Netanyahu has however signalled that he does not want to do so, calling it unsustainable.

The police have already recommended indicting Netanyahu in two bribery cases, but the attorney general is still reviewing the evidence to decide whether to charge Netanyahu.

Three of his former associates have signed state witness deals with police.

Liberman to Netanyahu: No need to initiate early elections