JERUSALEM (Web Desk) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party denied on Friday that he had decided to call a snap election, as he battled to keep the government afloat after his defence minister quit over a Gaza ceasefire.
Netanyahu’s ruling coalition was left with a single seat majority in parliament after the walkout on Wednesday by Avigdor Lieberman and his hawkish Yisrael Beitenu party.
Netanyahu held crunch talks on Friday with his other main right-wing rival, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, whose religious nationalist Jewish Home party has threatened also to quit unless he is given Lieberman’s job.
But there were conflicting reports of their discussion, with a source close to Bennett telling this news agency the two had agreed that “it would be senseless to continue” with the same coalition.
“They will set a date for elections when they meet with the (other) coalition partners on Sunday,” the source said. Within minutes, a statement from Likud said that was incorrect.
“The prime minister told minister Bennett that rumours that a decision has been made to go to elections are not correct,” the statement said.
It added that early next week the premier would consult leaders of the coalition parties.
“He trusts the ministers’ sense of responsibility to keep them from making the historic error of bringing down a right-wing government,” it said.
The Gaza ceasefire, which ended the worst flare-up between Israel and the territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas since a 2014 war, faced its first major test on Friday, the day of the week when Palestinian border protests have typically peaked.
Thousands of demonstrators turned out at Gaza’s frontier with Israel, a reporter said, but most kept some distance from the border fence rather than seeking to damage or breach it as has been the case in the past.
Gaza’s health ministry said that 14 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli army fire, two of them seriously.
The ceasefire announced on Tuesday has drawn heavy criticism in Israeli communities near the border that faced barrages of rockets earlier this week.
Hundreds of people joined a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Thursday despite a promise from Netanyahu of more public money for emergency services.