The Weekend Leader - Israeli PM takes over defence ministry

Israeli PM takes over defence ministry



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

In a broadcast press conference at the defence headquarters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said that he is taking over the defence 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, reports Xinhua news agency.

He criticised 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 defence 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.-IANS

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