The decision of Education Minister Naftali Bennett to keep his party, Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home), in the government has forestalled talk of early elections, for now, The Times of Israel reported Monday.
Following the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the exit of his party Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is our Home), from the governing coalition, the Likud-led government held onto a narrow 61 seat majority. The departure of Bennett’s party would have brought the governing coalition to 53 seats, which would not have been able to survive motions of no-confidence, necessitating the call for new elections, probably in March.
Liberman left the government following the declaration of a ceasefire with Hamas, the terrorist-group that exercises complete political and military control over the Gaza Strip, after Hamas launched some 460 rockets into Israel over a two-day period last week. The former defense minister said that the ceasefire agreement meant that he could “no longer” do his job.
The Jerusalem Post reported that both Bennett and Liberman had favored a “more aggressive” approach towards Hamas than the one pursued by Netanyahu.
Bennett had demanded that Netanyahu give him the defense portfolio as the price for staying in the governing coalition, but the prime minister refused, saying that he would serve as defense minister. Netanyahu, however, is slated to give up his role as foreign minister and name a replacement, likely to be from the Likud party, in the coming days.
While the maneuvering appears to have given the governing coalition a new lease on life and a chance to last until its term ends late next year, Moshe Kahlon, head of the Kulanu faction, raised doubts if the coalition could last and said that he expects new elections in March.
While Netanyahu has faced internal criticism for agreeing to the ceasefire, other observers have credited him with preventing another war.
In an editorial, The Washington Post praised the Israeli leader for accepting the ceasefire, writing, “Mr. Netanyahu deserves credit for embracing it despite the political cost.”
The editorial blames Hamas for not allowing the Palestinian Authority to extend its control over Gaza, observing that such an outcome is not possible “largely because Hamas refuses to disarm.”
In all, considering the alternatives, the editorial praised Netanyahu for accepting “the cease-fire and humanitarian respite,” which “are far better than another war.”
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