Amid Election Talk, Netanyahu Aims to Keep Government Until Year's End, Source Says

Netanyahu associate says premier wants to avoid interim government that won't let him make appointments he wants to seal for IDF and police chiefs ■ Coalition sources believe PM will attempt to lower electoral threshold

File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on October 28, 2018.
Oded Balilty / POOL / AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to keep his coalition intact and avoid dissolving the Knesset for at least another six weeks, even if elections are brought forward to late March or early April, a source close to the prime minister told Haaretz on Friday.

Netanyahu earlier met with Education Minister Naftali Bennett and rejected his request to be appointed defense minister following the resignation of Avigdor Lieberman, saying it would be difficult to get the coalition to approve the appointment.

The Prime Minister's Office said after the meeting that Netanyahu was telling coalition partners that "there is no reason to go to elections." Although the coalition's collapse is inevitable, Netanyahu is attempting to postpone it for as long as possible.

According to the source, it is important for Netanyahu to appoint a new police commissioner and military chief of staff. But if the Knesset is dissolved, these appointments could be blocked.

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While the appointment of a new chief of staff is expected to be approved without problems, the appointment of retired Maj. Gen. Moshe Edri as police commissioner has encountered opposition in light of a misconduct complaint. The government committee that vets candidates for public service is set to meet on Sunday to consider the complaint. The current police commissioner chief's tenure ends on December 3, and Netanyahu wants time to find another candidate if Edri's appointment fails.

Coalition members also believe Netanyahu wants to make another attempt to lower the electoral threshold – the percentage of total votes cast that a party needs to enter the Knesset – before the next elections. However, Netanyahu has not raised this during talks with coalition partners.

Shas Chairman Arye Dery, who serves as interior minister, opposes lowering the threshold out of concern that his predecessor will run a new electoral list. Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman is also against the idea for fear that it would cause a split in his United Torah Judaism party.