Israeli coalition crisis raises threat of new elections

Israeli news anchor Geula Even a witness in the court case against former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court

Israeli news anchor Geula Even a witness in the court case against former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised Sunday the possibility of snap elections following a dispute with his finance minister over a new national broadcasting service.

"You can not have a situation in which Likud respects all coalition agreements while small parties don't keep their commitments on important points", Netanyahu said in remarks broadcast Sunday by public radio.

It was Netanyahu himself who originally pressed to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority, but he had a change of heart, saying it should be overhauled rather than replaced.

The crisis raised speculations that the dispute may lead to early elections, a move which would stall potential steps to renew peace talks with Palestinians under the new USA administration of President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu, who has long sought to scrap the new broadcaster and revive the IBA - which his own Likud government voted to shutter in favor of the new entity - on Saturday night reneged on a deal that would have seen the new corporation go live on April 30, as planned.

Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that his coalition partners are required to side with his ruling Likud party regarding all media regulation matters.

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"It was explicitly determined that all parties are obliged to abide by decisions made by our Likud party, the media communications issue, including closure of the corporation", Netanyahu wrote.

Kahlon, meanwhile, has fought for the establishment of the new broadcaster, as legislated, and with reduced government meddling.

"To send home hundreds of families on the eve of [the Jewish holiday of] Passover, for what?"

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman joined Katz in speaking out against elections, adding "Any sane persons realizes elections is the last thing we need". Netanyahu may be using the broadcaster dispute as a pretext because early elections wouldn't prevent the old broadcaster from being closed, said Yoaz Hendel, a former adviser to Netanyahu. "We'll not have a better coalition after the elections".

He is known as being committed to reforming Israel's public broadcasting and is reported to have held talks with opposition leader Isaac Herzog of Labour on Saturday evening as the row dragged on.

Kahlon's Kulanu party is a vital coalition partner, with 10 seats.

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