'Benjamin Netanyahu has played a last-minute gambit to persuade politicians to help him form a government, threatening to call fresh Israeli elections if deadlocked negotiations do not succeed.
The prime minister and his rightwing and religious allies won a general election just last month, but the leader is required to announce a new coalition by Wednesday, a deadline mandated by law. If he fails, the Israeli president may assign another legislator to attempt the task.
Talks stalled over disagreements between Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties and former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman’s ultranationalist secular party, Yisrael Beiteinu. Netanyahu needs support from both for a majority government in the country’s parliament, the Knesset.
Lieberman has sought guarantees on a draft bill he championed that will force ultra-Orthodox religion students, who are largely exempt from conscription, to serve in the army. Ultra-Orthodox parties have vehemently opposed the legislation.
“I don’t think the country needs to be dragged to another election,” Netanyahu told his outgoing cabinet on Sunday, “but there might be someone who wants that.”
Netanyahu had presented both sides with a compromise, a deal Lieberman’s chief negotiator described as “fake”.
The Knesset was scheduled on Monday afternoon to hold the first of three votes for a motion tabled by Netanyahu’s Likud party that would restart a months-long election process. It was seen as an attempt to put pressure on Lieberman, who will want to avoid blame for delaying Israel’s next administration.
Israel has never held two elections in a year, and Netanyahu would remain as interim leader until a new government is formed.'
Read more: Netanyahu threatens to call fresh election as coalition talks falter
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20 February 2020
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