Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
Culture&Arts | By Darrell Mcdonald

Israeli politicians suspect Netanyahu seeks election to survive corruption probes

Israeli politicians suspect Netanyahu seeks election to survive corruption probes

Earlier, an official with Yisrael Beytenu, a right-wing party led by Defense Minister Avigdor Liebermann, told the Hebrew-language Ynet news site that the party will leave the coalition should the bill be approved in parliament's final reading.

His religious partners say they will not vote for the 2019 budget without draft exemptions, while a key secular partner has vowed to bolt the coalition if the budget isn't passed soon.

An early election, political commentators said, could be used by Netanyahu to shore up public support before Israel's attorney-general decides whether to accept police recommendations to indict him in two graft cases.

Netanyahu met with leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties Saturday night, after which he said they were working on a draft for the bill that would meet legal and political demands.

On Monday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a controversial bill that would essentially allow haredi yeshiva students to be exempt from the draft. The government believes it has enough votes to pass the legislation even without Liberman and his party, except that several of Kulanu's 10 lawmakers have said they would not vote for the bill if Liberman does not support it. Several Kulanu MKs have previously stated they would join Lieberman in opposing the bill.

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MK Oded Forer told Israel Radio: "We will oppose the conscription law". The long-serving ruler could hope for a successful run in early elections as way to cement his political legitimacy in the face of the scandals.

"In order to continue our great achievements and to stand up to the great challenges before us, we need to continue together", Netanyahu said in a speech before the Knesset. "The hour is late, but it is not too late". We must act responsibly.

Yisrael Beiteinu is mostly comprised of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came to Israel by the hundreds of thousands after the collapse of the Iron Curtain. Lieberman has served as Israel's minister of defense since 2016 - an extremely influential position for a country with the third-highest military expenditure per capita in the world after Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

Opposition politicians and a leading member of the prime minister's coalition have accused Netanyahu, who is polling strongly of seeking snap elections as a way to bolster his standing in the event of a criminal indictment.

Investigators last month recommended to prosecutors that Netanyahu be indicted in at least two corruption cases against him.

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