Israel PM Netanyahu's party announces early elections in April

by Garry Watts December 25, 2018, 1:16
Israel PM Netanyahu's party announces early elections in April

At the same time, polls indicate that if an election were held at this moment, his Likud party would remain the biggest in the Knesset. At a meeting of his Likud faction, he listed his accomplishments in office and said he hoped his current religious, nationalistic coalition would be the "core" of the next one as well.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday lambasted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for accusing the Israeli army of kicking Palestinian people in the head, including women and children, calling him an "antisemitic dictator" who trolled him, The Jerusalem Post reports.

Israel will hold an early general election in April, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, after members of his governing coalition met to discuss differences over legislation.

"Accused of fraud in investigations carried out in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to manipulate the worldwide community", Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party spokesman Omer Celik also said in a tweet.

Mr Netanyahu's coalition has been rocked by internal divisions for months.

The likelihood of an early election increased in November after Mr Netanyahu's defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, quit the government, leaving the ruling coalition with its one-seat majority.

However, a separate crisis appears to be the cause of the decision to call an early election - a new law extending the military draft to ultra-Orthodox men.

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu had called an emergency meeting of his coalition heads to debate the military conscription bill affecting exemptions from compulsory service for ultra-Orthodox Jewish students.

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Environment and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze'ev Elkin agreed that the coalition "could not continue to function" after the opposition's Yesh Atid announced it would not support the draft bill.

As a result, Netanyahu convened his fellow coalition faction leaders and the decision was made to dissolve parliament and go to elections.

Riding high in the polls, Netanyahu appears all but certain to win a fourth consecutive term and a place in history as the country's longest-serving prime minister.

But the potential for criminal charges over a slew of corruption allegations could finish the Israeli PM's political career.

Netanyahu, facing the possibility of bribery and breach of trust charges in three different cases, made scant mention of these investigations at a gathering of his Likud Party as he announced plans for what is expected to be an April 9 vote.

Netanyahu has angrily dismissed the accusations against him, characterizing them as part of a media-driven witch-hunt that is obsessed with removing him from office.

The decision, if approved by a Knesset vote necessitated by Israeli law, would come just over four years after the last Knesset elections, held on March 17, 2015. But since Lieberman's resignation the coalition has been relying on the slimmest of parliamentary majorities, just 61 out of its 120 members, and has found governing hard. Rarely do governments last an entire term, due to Israel's complex parliamentary system. Since then, elections have nearly always been moved up because of a coalition crisis or as a strategic move by the prime minister to maximize his chance of re-election.

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