‘Historic Mistake’: Netanyahu Warns Against Early Elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against holding early elections on Friday after sources close to Education Minister Naftali Bennett said it had been decided to go to the polls as soon as possible.

The sources, who said coalition heads will agree on an election date on Sunday, spoke after Netanyahu and Bennett met against the backdrop of the government’s calls to freeze early elections. According to the sources, the decision to hold elections was made in light of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s firm support for the idea.

Netanyahu, however, said "rumors that a decision to go to elections had been made were incorrect." He made the remark in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office following the meeting with Bennett.

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In the statement, Netanyahu said that he "trusts the ministers not to topple a right-wing government and not to repeat the historic mistake of ’92, when they toppled a right-wing government, put the left in power and brought the Oslo disaster on the state of Israel."

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The prime minister further said he had told Bennett that it was important to do everything possible to avoid early elections.

The meeting between Netanyahu and Bennett, who heads the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party, was held against the backdrop of the government’s calls to freeze early elections.

On Wednesday, MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) warned Netanyahu that it would force early elections if Bennett was not appointed defense minister.

Also on Wednesday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), reiterated in her interview on Army Radio that "The right thing to do is to give Bennett the defense portfolio," she said, adding that if this doesn’t happen, "Habayit Hayehudi must set a date for elections."

Netanyahu held consultations Wednesday night in his Jerusalem residence on the question of whether to call early elections or accept Bennett’s ultimatum. Netanyahu did not rejected Bennett’s demand out of hand and was considering it, although his inclinations seemed to be to reject it and act as defense minister himself while allowing Bennett to dissolve the government.

Outgoing Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his resignation on Wednesday, a day after Israel reached a cease-fire with the Palestinian factions in Gaza following three days of hostilities.