Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Netanyahu takes over defense ministry as Lieberman quits

19 Nov 2018, 00:04 ( 24 days ago) | updated: 19 Nov 2018, 00:05 ( 24 days ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, on Nov. 14, 2018. Avigdor Lieberman resigned from the government on Wednesday, reiterating that the government lacks hard hand against Gaza's Hamas. Photo Xinhua/JINI.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that he will serve as defense minister amidst efforts to prevent the collapse of his government.

   In a broadcast press conference at the defense headquarters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said that he is taking over the defense portfolio in the wake of the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

   Netanyahu said that he is doing "every effort" to solve the current coalition crisis to avoid early elections.

   He criticized ministers who called for early elections after the coalition remained with a one-seat majority, saying the current situation does not allow the coalition to function properly.

   "In the middle of a campaign, we don't play politics," Netanyahu said.

   He added that Israel is in a "sensitive period for security," and "it is irresponsible to go to elections."

   Netanyahu already serves as the foreign minister in addition to prime minister.

   The pro-settler party of the Jewish Home said last week that if the defense portfolio will not be given to its leader Naftali Bennet, its ministers will resign, meaning a collapse of the coalition.

   Bennet and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is also a lawmaker with the Jewish Home, said that they will hold a press conference on Monday to give an announcement.

   Lieberman announced his resignation in a press conference last Wednesday, citing sharp disagreement over an agreed cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian movement that runs the Gaza Strip.

   Lieberman, 60, a hawkish member of the coalition, accused Netanyahu of "surrendering to terror" by agreeing to the cease-fire.

   His resignation left the coalition with 61 members in the 120-seat parliament, making it likely to collapse if another party decides to quit.

   The official date for the next general elections in Israel is November 2019. If early elections are called, they could be held in March 2019.

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