Coalition chairman says ‘good chance’ of new elections
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Coalition chairman says ‘good chance’ of new elections

David Bitan warns continued political wrangling by other parties could prompt Likud and Netanyahu to go to the polls

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Coalition Chairman David Bitan attend a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament on January 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Coalition Chairman David Bitan attend a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament on January 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Coalition Chairman David Bitan said Saturday there was “a good chance” the ruling Likud party would decide to hold new elections soon if other parties in the coalition continue to threaten its stability.

This week saw rifts widen between many of the coalition parties, with the heads of the Kulanu and Jewish Home parties both attacking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over policy differences.

Bitan, at a cultural event in Beersheba, said Likud “will not be coerced… not by Kulanu and not by Jewish Home. If the threats and statements continue, there’s a good chance we’ll go to elections.”

He added: “Jewish Home and Kulanu say the cabinet depends on them. If Likud and the prime minister have enough of it, we’ll dismantle it all and go to the polls.”

Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon, who serves as finance minister, publicly aired a dispute with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week over the fate of the new public broadcaster. This then led Interior Minister and Shas party leader Aryeh Deri to propose new elections, saying they were preferable to incessant coalition spats.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) also attacked Netanyahu, on Thursday, for staying silent after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman threatened to close a prestigious pre-army academy whose controversial senior rabbi disparaged female soldiers.

Meanwhile the United Torah Judaism party threatened it would not vote with the coalition next week unless a committee overseeing school licensing was established by Monday. The coalition agreements between Netanyahu and the ultra-Orthodox party in 2015 stipulated that the committee would be set up within 60 days of the establishment of the government.

And with ongoing police investigations into Netanyahu in several separate cases leaving his political future unclear, all parties appear to be gearing up for new elections in the not-too-distant future.

Marissa Newman and Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

 

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