Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fended off a challenge to his fragile coalition Monday as a key partner backed away from a threat to quit the government, staving off snap elections but leaving the embattled leader’s position so precarious that U.S. hopes to begin a peace process in the coming months could be thrown off course.
Naftali Bennett’s decision to stay on as education minister and keep his Jewish Home party in the ruling coalition lessens the possibility of early elections, at least for now, though the government’s majority remains razor thin, with 61 out of 120 seats in the Israeli parliament, or Knesset... “Any schmuck in the coalition can blackmail him with whatever reason, it’s really hard to handle,” Mr. Navon added... His announcement follows a week of crisis in Mr. Netanyahu’s government, triggered Wednesday after the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in protest at the government’s policy toward Gaza. Mr. Lieberman, who said Israel’s response to a flare up in violence with Gaza hadn’t been tough enough, subsequently withdrew his Yisrael Beiteinu party from government, costing the coalition five seats... In the wake of that resignation, Mr. Bennett said he would withdraw his party unless he was appointed defense minister... Mr. Netanyahu announced Sunday that he would keep the defense brief for himself. He is now the
- foreign minister,
- defense minister and
- health minister, as well as the
- prime minister.
.. Mr. Netanyahu has served as prime minister since 2009 and won three successive elections. He is favored to win again in a 2019 contest.
.. looming over him are a string of corruption probes, with indictments possible in the coming months, which analysts said are also figuring into his calculations about when to hold elections. Police have so far recommended Mr. Netanyahu be charged with criminal bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two corruption probes, but it is up to the attorney general to decide whether to bring charges.