There's a Good Chance Israel Is Heading for Elections, Netanyahu's Whip Says

In thinly-veiled threat to government partners, coalition chairman says that 'if prime minister will get fed up, we'll head to elections.'

Chairman of Israel's ruling coalition MK David Bitan with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

The chairman of Israel's ruling coalition said Saturday that "there is a good chance we're heading for elections."

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According to MK David Bitan, the Habayit Hayehudi and Kulanu parties believe that the government is dependent on them for its continued survival and take advantage of the situation when they have a chance.

"The waters have reached our souls," Bitan said, invoking a quote from Psalms. "If the Likud and the prime minister will be fed up he will break [the coalition] and we will head to elections and come out stronger."

Political tensions in the ruling coalition boiled up this week, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu locking horns with finance minister and Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon over Israel's new public broadcaster.

>> Israeli ministers are fed up with Netanyahu, but don't eulogize the government just yet | Yossi Verter <<

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Avigdor Leiberman drew the ire of Habayit Hayehudi chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett as religious tensions within Israel's army over women serving in combat roles also echoed in the halls of government.

Bitan also claimed that the criminal investigations into Netanyahu have no bearing on whether the elections will take place ahead of schedule.

Earlier Saturday, former prime minister Ehud Barak, a vocal critic of Netanyahu who some speculate might make a return to politics, said he does not think Israel will head to the polls anytime soon, saying the elections will probably take place as planned in two and a half years' time.

New poll

If the Israeli elections were held today, Netanyahu's Likud party would still get the most seats in Israel's parliament, a new poll by Channel 10 News said Friday, giving the ruling party 26 of the Knesset's 120 seats.

Yair Lapid's centrist Yest Atid party would come in second by just one Knesset seat, polling at 25, while the current opposition leader, the Zionist Union, would win only 10 seats.

Likud won 30 seats in the last Knesset elections in 2015, while the Zionist Union has 24, so the poll indicates a loss in support for both, while support for Lapid, who currently has 11 seats, seems to be on the rise.

Both the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party and the Israeli Arab Joint List party polled at 13.