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Is Netanyahu’s Government Crumbling? New Conflict Could Lead to Early National Election

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (AP Photo)
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (AP Photo)

Israel will pick a date to hold early elections on Sunday following a tumultuous week for the nation.

The decision came after talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a member of his own coalition, broke down Friday. 

Bennett challenged Netanyahu's leadership and urged the prime minister to appoint him as defense minister. The position was left open after Avigdor Lieberman resigned earlier this week over Netanyahu's decision to accept a ceasefire agreement with Hamas after the terror group launched hundreds of rockets into Israel's southern border.

Bennett, a senior official in the right-leaning Jewish Home party, threatened to leave Netanyahu's coalition if he is not appointed defense minister. 

The tense meeting ended with a decision by cabinet members to hold national elections "as soon as possible, with no possibility of continuing the current government," a source told CNN. 

On Thursday, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri also called for early elections. 

"In the present situation, the best thing for Israeli citizens and the Israeli economy is to go to early elections as soon as possible," Kahlon said, according to Israeli media reports.

Representatives from Netanyahu's office said he would try to preserve his administration, but it looked unlikely after he lost Bennett's support. 

Netanyahu's coalition has 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset. Bennett's decision to withdraw the Jewish Home party would take away eight seats away from the prime minister's coalition, thus making elections inevitable. 

The government must choose an election date within three to five months. That means Israel may undergo elections between March and May. 

Many believe Netanyahu will not do well in the coming election, especially since a number of Israelis believe he capitulated to terrorists by agreeing to a ceasefire with Hamas. 

"We do know there was a poll taken right after the ceasefire and his Likud party only got 29 seats. That's the lowest total in any of his polls in a long time," says CBN Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell. 

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