Israel Holding Early Elections As Bribery Allegations Engulf Netanyahu

April FrancisDec 25, 2018

The decision to call the election follows months of turmoil in Israeli politics. In exchange, they believe Netanyahu used his connections with Bezeq's controlling shareholder to receive positive press coverage on the company's popular news site.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in the cases and has given no indication he will step down if charged.

"The current coalition is, in my eyes, the core of the next coalition", Netanyahu said.

Mandelblit has not said when he expects to make a decision.

The justice ministry announced on Wednesday that deliberations were continuing and were "not dependent on political events".

Reuven Hazan, a political scientist at Israel's Hebrew University, said the campaign would be dominated by "a discussion of whether Netanyahu should stay after, if he is prosecuted".

The new elections are expected to be held on April 9. The thinking is that it would be politically hard for Mandelblit to indict, and potentially topple, a popular, newly re-elected prime minister.

The latest diplomatic row began after Erdogan warned young Turks on Saturday: "Do not kick the enemy you have brought down to the ground".

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An electoral victory would send a message that "you can not overturn the results of a democratic election", he said.

Netanyahu's coalition has been teetering on the edge with a one-seat majority since the November 14 resignation of the Israeli minister for military affairs, Avigdor Liberman, who stepped down over the Tel Aviv's handling of ongoing tensions in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu, now in his fourth term as prime minister, has been governing with a slim majority of 61 seats in the 120-member parliament.

The move comes as the coalition struggles to reach a consensus on the hotly debated bill related to exemptions from compulsory service for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

On the right, Mr Lieberman and Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, could both seek to lead a right-wing bloc if Likud emerges in a weaker position in an election.

But on Monday, after failing to garner enough votes to pass court-ordered legislation to draft ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, Mr Netanyahu's Likud party said "national and budgetary responsibilities" compelled the calling of early elections. As a deadline for the legislation loomed, his religious coalition partners were demanding the legislation be weakened. Earlier Monday, Yair Lapid of the opposition Yesh Atid party announced he was rescinding his support for the bill, calling the coalition's hoped-for compromise a payoff to draft dodgers.

"The leaders of the coalition decided unanimously to dissolve parliament and go to a new election in early April", a spokesman for the Israeli premier wrote on Twitter.

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