'Historic Mistake': Netanyahu Warns Against Early Elections

Early elections decided on after Netanyahu-Bennett meeting, sources say ■ Netanyahu denies, voices opposition to dissolving right-wing government

FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits next to Education Minister Naftali Bennett during a session of the plenum of the Knesset, March 12, 2018.
REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against holding early elections on Friday after sources close to Education Minister Naftali Bennett said it had been decided to go to the polls as soon as possible.

The sources, who said coalition heads will agree on an election date on Sunday, spoke after Netanyahu and Bennett met against the backdrop of the government's calls to freeze early elections. According to the sources, the decision to hold elections was made in light of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's firm support for the idea.

Netanyahu, however, said "rumors that a decision to go to elections had been made were incorrect." He made the remark in a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office following the meeting with Bennett.

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In the statement, Netanyahu said that he "trusts the ministers not to topple a right-wing government and not to repeat the historic mistake of '92, when they toppled a right-wing government, put the left in power and brought the Oslo disaster on the state of Israel."

The prime minister further said he had told Bennett that it was important to do everything possible to avoid early elections.

The meeting between Netanyahu and Bennett, who heads the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party, was held against the backdrop of the government's calls to freeze early elections.

On Wednesday, MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) warned Netanyahu that the party would force early elections if Bennett was not appointed defense minister.

Also on Wednesday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), reiterated in her interview on Army Radio that "the right thing to do is to give Bennett the defense portfolio." 

Netanyahu held consultations Wednesday night in his Jerusalem residence on the question of whether to call early elections or accept Bennett's ultimatum. 

Outgoing Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his resignation on Wednesday, a day after Israel reached a cease-fire with the Palestinian factions in Gaza following three days of hostilities.