Netanyahu's far-right party quashes early election rumours

Netanyahu plots next moves in Israel coalition crisis

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allegedly told a meeting of key cabinet ministers yesterday that he can not hold the coalition together in the face of increasing opposition to Bennett's demand to be handed the defence portfolio in return for keeping his Jewish Home party in the coalition.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, demanded Netanyahu to make him defense minister or he would withdraw his eight seats from the coalition.

After Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his resignation on Wednesday, Netanyahu called to "stabilize" his governing coalition.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main coalition partner is seeking elections "as soon as possible" and wants a date set on Sunday.

Mr Netanyahu raised the spectre of the collapse of a Likud-led government in 1992, which led to Labour taking power and signing the Oslo Accords agreement with the Palestinians, to the fury the Israeli Right.

According to a Jewish Home source, however, "It became clear that in light of the resolute position of Kulanu chairman, Minister Kahlon [who has called for early elections], there was a need to go to elections as soon as possible with no possibility of continuing the current government".

Chief of Islamic Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, Yehia Sinwar on Friday warned Israel not to wage any future military offensive on the enclave that his movement has been ruling since 2007, media reported.

By pulling his Yisrael Beytenu party out of the coalition, Liberman left the government with a narrow majority, with just 61 out of the 120 Knesset seats. Instead, Netanyahu himself will serve as acting defense minister for the time being, in addition to his duties as prime minister and acting foreign minister.

The fighting erupted after an Israeli unit was exposed during a covert operation inside Gaza, leading to a shootout between the Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters.

Later, another key member, Arie Deri, leader of ultra-Orthodox Shas party, echoed Kahlon, calling for early elections.

An election date would be decided on Sunday, the source close to Bennett said. That means Israel may undergo elections between March and May.

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