Netanyahu threatens early elections if rival party leaves coalition over conscription bill

Eichler at Knesset plenum

Early elections seemed all but unavoidable on Sunday evening, after the spiritual leaders of a major ultra-Orthodox party rejected a compromise on a conscription bill that has roiled the coalition.

Hundreds of Israelis have held rallies again in Tel Aviv, protesting corruption and demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resign.

"Afterward, I will be required to commit to a new government, with or without an indictment", Bennett said, referring to possibility that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will press charges against the prime minister within the next few months. Speaking to reporters whilst embarking on his trip to the USA last week, the prime minister said he was not seeking early elections but said that if a coalition compromise was not reached, it could be likely.

The coalition is at loggerheads over legislation that would exempt young ultra-Orthodox men from military service, a dispute that has threatened to pull the government apart.

In a separate interview to Kan Bet radio, Bennett said that the coalition crisis was "entirely manufactured" and that it "can be resolved".

"If you bring down a right-wing government and lead us to unnecessary elections for personal aims, you will lose us", Bennett added on Twitter, apparently hinting at withdrawing future support for Netanyahu if the prime minister is indicted.

"Once the heads of the ultra-Orthodox parties announced they would agree to a solution, the draft crisis was solved".

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Yaakov Margi of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party implied that compromises had been made to allow for a resolution, saying that "the feeling is that the prime minister has fallen in love with this fake crisis".

Despite police investigations into his affairs, polls suggest that Netanyahu could remain the prime minister as fresh elections would see the Likud party securing the majority of the seats.

Last week Bennett revealed his intentions to run for prime minister if elections were called. "This is a "fake" crisis that could easily be fixed", he told Reshet Bet Sunday.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told cabinet ministers Sunday that there's now no "concrete US peace plan" on the table.

The bill is bitterly opposed by Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman. "For that to happen, all the [coalition] parties need to reach an agreement and decide that they are continuing together", he told the ministers.

The country's attorney general is now examining whether to indict Netanyahu in two separate cases.

Last week, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of ultra-Orthodox alliance United Torah Judaism said that Netanyahu wanted early elections.

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