Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett has said he will keep his party in government, averting the prospect of early elections in the country.
In a dramatic press conference on Monday, Bennett, who heads the far-right Jewish Home party, slammed the record of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but stopped short of resigning.
“Something bad is happening to us from within,” said Bennett, according to I24. “For quite a few years, including the last decade of the government headed by Netanyahu, that the state of Israel stopped winning.”
“I saw it with my own eyes in the second Lebanon war, as a commander of the air force in the western area of Lebanon. I saw the confusion, I saw the problems, the lack of determination. I saw the lack of spirit.”
“There is no apocolypse on the horizon. There are enemies. The enemies are not the ones that worry me,” he added.
Last week Bennett and Justice Minister Ayalet Shaked threatened to withdraw from the government coalition if Bennett wasn’t named defence minister, in the wake of Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation.
Netanyahu subsequently said he would take on the defence portfolio himself on Sunday.
The prime minister said in a televised address that “there is no place for politics or personal considerations” when it comes to Israel’s security.
He also urged his coalition partners not to bring down the government, saying holding snap elections now would be “irresponsible” as Israel is in “one of our most complex periods in terms of security”.
Netanyahu’s meeting on Sunday with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, a key coalition partner who has also pushed for early elections, was seen as a last attempt to prevent the collapse of the coalition – which currently has a one-seat majority in parliament – but ended with no conclusion.
Bennett had threatened to withdraw from the coalition to protest a ceasefire in Gaza agreed between Israel and Hamas-led factions on Tuesday.
Following Netanyahu’s announcement, the Jewish Home party on Sunday evening said it “does not change anything” regarding its demand that Bennett is made defence chief.
“This is a government that is nominally right-wing but acts left-wing,” the party said in a statement, as reported by the Times of Israel.
“The government is a government with leftist policies, a collapsed deterrence against Hamas, the failure to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar, a weak policy toward terrorists and their families after terror attacks.”
Many viewed Netanyahu’s speech in which he denounced those threatening to resign to be in fact, the start of the election campaign.
The Kulanu party’s Knesset faction chair MK Roy Falkman said that the country is heading for early elections with or without the ministers’ resignations.
“The coalition hasn’t been functioning properly for several weeks. We will go to elections even if Bennett and Ayelet Shaked don’t resign,” Folkman told Army Radio, as reported by the Times of Israel.
Al Jazeera and news agencies