Elections likely after Kahlon vetoes Bennett as defense minister

Elections likely after Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon tells Netanyahu he will not accept Bennett serving as Defense Minister.

Tzvi Lev,

Bennett and Kahlon
Bennett and Kahlon
Marc Israel Sellem/POOL

Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon told Prime Minister Netanyahu that he will not accept Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett serving as defense minister, following the resignation of current defense minister, Avigdor Liberman.

On Wednesday, Bennett issued an ultimatum to the Prime Minister, saying his Jewish Home faction will quit the coalition if he is not appointed defense minister. If Bennett's ultimatum holds, Kahlon's veto likely signals that early elections are on the way.

"Bennett doesn't have it coming to get the Defense Ministry portfolio. I'm opposed to it," Kahlon told Netanyahu.

Bennett told confidants in response that he will not accept any other portfolio. "I will not agree to compromises. Not the Foreign Ministry or anything else - only defense," he said.

Bennett currently serves as Education Minister and Minister for Diaspora Affairs.

The coalition's future appears shaky after both Kiulanu Chairman Moshe Kahlon and Shas head Aryeh Deri called for new elections on Thursday.

Jewish Home officials said Wednesday that despite warnings that Liberman’s resignation would likely spell the end of the current government and the 20th Knesset, a narrow coalition could be kept in place into 2019.

The Netanyahu government currently holds a 66-seat majority in the 120 member Knesset. With Yisrael Beytenu’s departure, that majority has now been reduced to just 61 seats.

On Thursday, Bennett said at an Education Ministry conference that he demanded to succeed Avigdor Liberman as the defense minister in order to restore Israel's deterrence vis a vis Hamas.

"Without taking responsibility for security and without dramatic change, Israel's deterrence will continue to erode, Hamas will continue not to be afraid of us. As defense minister, I intend to bring innovation, creativity and a spirit of fighting, to break a decades-long mental state," contended Bennett. "I am willing to take responsibility."


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