Israel's embattled PM holds off on early elections, for now

Israel's embattled PM holds off on early elections, for now

Earlier, an official with Yisrael Beytenu, a right-wing party led by Defense Minister Avigdor Liebermann, told the Hebrew-language Ynet news site that the party will leave the coalition should the bill be approved in parliament's final reading. But make no mistake about it: This is their last chance.

The Knesset plenum voted 59-38 in favor of the bill, which would exempt ultra-Orthodox seminary students from the military draft.

Israel's prime minister is holding emergency negotiations with key coalition partners in hopes of averting a crisis that has threatened to plunge the country into early elections.

"I said that the nuclear agreement with Iran contains within it many dangers for the world, including the special danger of the nuclearization of the Middle East", Netanyahu said, according to a statement released on his behalf. They have threatened retaliation: If the bill does not pass, the parties said they won't vote to approve the country's 2019 budget, which both Netanyahu and Economy Minister Moshe Kahlon, head of the Kulanu party, have identified as a high priority.

In his speech, Netanyahu made no mention of the scandals, but said he had no fears of holding a new election.

Military service for ultra-Orthodox men is one of the most fraught topics in Israel and looked to undermine Netanyahu's coalition government, which has 66 out of the 120 lawmakers.

On Monday, the ministerial committee gave approval to the bill.

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Robert Ilatov, another Yisrael Beytenu MK, similarly said the party would oppose the bill and added that the compromise deal was "irrelevant".

Meanwhile, new polls released Monday showed that if elections were held today, Likud would remain in power with the same amount of seats, the centrist Yesh Atid would come in second and main opposition party the Zionist Union would lose around half its seats.

Although Lieberman has enjoyed a healthy working relationship with Netanyahu and his similarly conservative Likud party, a schism has persistently existed in the coalition between secular parties like Yisrael Beiteinu and orthodox parties like The Jewish Home, Shas and UTJ.

Netanyahu has however signalled that he does not want to do so, calling it unsustainable.

"President Trump told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in their meeting at the White House last Monday that he won't show flexibility in the negotiations with France, Germany and the United Kingdom on amending the Iran nuclear deal, two senior Israeli officials told me".

The 68-year-old premier could soon face charges in at least two separate corruption affairs, while investigations are continuing into two others.

Police recommended his indictment for bribery in the first two cases in February and the attorney general is considering how to proceed, a process expected to take months.

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