Israel's Netanyahu survives early poll threat

Yet, the volatile situation along the Gaza border remains a challenge for his coalition

Photo: EPA Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett (L) and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at a press conference in the Israeli Knesset

Israel's government appears to have averted a possible collapse after a key partner withdrew a threat to leave the coalition and force snap elections. Naftali Bennett, education minister and leader of the of the third largest party in the coalition - Jewish Home party, had signalled he would quit, but in a sharp turnaround on Monday, he retreated and decided to stay on. At least for so long as the prime minister addresses Israel's "deep security crisis".

"If the prime minister is serious in his intentions, and I want to believe his words from last night, I am saying here to the prime minister we are removing at this moment all of our political demands and will help you in the huge mission of making Israel win again," he told reporters on Monday along with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, since she had also threaten to leave the cabinet.

The latest crisis in Netanyahu's government began when his defence minister resigned in opposition to an Israeli ceasefire with Gaza militants last week. The withdrawal of Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Israel Our Home party left Mr Netanyahu's government clinging to a one-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset (parliament). This forced the PM Benjamin Netanyahu to hold talks with ministers in recent days, so he could keep his coalition together and avoid being left with a minority government, which would have made snap elections very likely.

Prime Minister Netanyahu appears keen to avoid going to the polls early next year at a time when the attorney general is expected to decide whether to charge him in relation to a series of corruption cases. If he's charged, it would inevitably lead to calls to step down. Furthermore, an election would also complicate plans by the Trump administration - which has promised it will soon unveil its peace plan to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

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