Sunday, November 18, 2018

PM Netanyahu Names Himself Defense Chief, Jewish Home's Bennett, Shaked To Announce Resignations Monday Effectively Toppling Coalition

Naming himself defense chief, Netanyahu says ‘no room for politics’ in security

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu​ announced Sunday night that he will take on the post of defense minister following Avigdor Liberman’s resignation, rejected calls for new elections, and said that Israel was in the midst of a military campaign, during which “you don’t play politics.”
During a highly anticipated speech delivered at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, which coincided with Israel’s main nightly news broadcasts​, Netanyahu said it would be wrong and “irresponsible” to bring down the government and force new elections during “one of our most difficult security periods.”
“We are in them midst of a military campaign, and you don’t leave during a campaign, you don’t play with politics,” he said, in a stinging critique of Liberman, who resigned last week, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is threatening to follow suit. “The security of the state is above all else,” Netanyahu said.

In a further dig at Jewish Home chairman Bennett, who has demanded the defense minister’s job as a condition for staying in the coalition, Netanyahu said, “There is no place for politics or personal considerations,” when it comes to Israel’s security.
Bennett has threatened to bring down the government if he is not appointed defense minister. Without the Jewish Home, Netanyahu’s coalition would shrink from 61 seats to just 53 and lose the required majority of the 120-seat Knesset to survive no-confidence motions. Bennett, along with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, are planning to quit the government on Monday morning, according to television reports on Sunday night.
The prime minister said that he was the best person for the defense job and implored his coalition partners to “do the responsible thing for the sake of Israel” and back him.
“So you see that I am making every effort in recent days, every effort, to prevent unnecessary elections,” he said.
Touting his military experience in the Sayeret Matkal elite operations unit and his “years of having ordered many military operations” as prime minister, Netanyahu said that he “knows when to act and what to do” in moments of crisis.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party are reportedly intending to announce their resignation on Monday, in a move that would topple the governing coalition.
Citing sources in the national-religious Jewish Home party, Hadashot television news reported on Sunday night that the announcement will be made at a joint press conference the two senior ministers called for Monday morning in the Knesset.
The television report came minutes before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau held his own press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv where, after holding talks with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, he announced that he intends to serve as Israel’s defense minister.

Bennett had threatened that if he were not given the defense portfolio, he would pull his Jewish Home party’s eight lawmakers out of the coalition, hastening elections.
The sudden coalition crisis was sparked by the resignation of former defense minister Avigdor Liberman, who had demanded a stronger Israeli response to the massive flareup in violence in the Gaza Strip last week.
The departure of Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu party left the coalition with a razor-thin two-seat edge over the opposition in the 120-member Knesset. Netanyahu’s other coalition partners say that governing with such a small majority is untenable, and have called for early elections. Without the Jewish Home faction, the government would no longer have a majority.
Before meeting with Kahlon on Sunday evening in a “last effort” to save his government, Netanyahu met at the Defense Ministry with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, his nominated successor Aviv Kochavi, and Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman​, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Earlier, it was reported that Netanyahu will appoint a foreign minister in the coming days. Hebrew-language media said Netanyahu would likely appoint a Likud member as foreign minister, a post that he currently holds. Channel 10 news said Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz were being considered for the position.
Shortly after the reports were published, the Likud party released a statement saying the prime minister would “appoint ministers in the coming days,” without elaborating. Currently, the prime minister holds the foreign affairs, defense, health, and immigration absorption portfolios.
The Jewish Home party responded to Netanyahu’s announcement of the appointment of a foreign minister saying “does not change anything” regarding its demand that Naftali Bennett be made defense minister.
The party said that if Bennett is not made defense minister, “we should go to immediate elections. Without handing over the defense portfolio to Minister Bennett in order to extricate Israel from its severe security crisis, there is no point in having a leftist government.”
Speaking at his weekly cabinet meeting earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu said it would be unwise to embark on a divisive election campaign during such a sensitive time for national security.
Last week, television news reports said that if an election was called, it would likely be held in the spring.

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