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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Israel's Netanyahu to hold 'decisive' meeting on coalition

Netanyahu's ruling coalition is left with a single seat majority in parliament

 Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem. REUTERS
 Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem. REUTERS

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced he will hold a "decisive" meeting on Sunday with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in a final bid to avert early elections.

Mr Netanyahu's ruling coalition was left with a single seat majority in parliament after a walkout on Wednesday by defence minister Avigdor Lieberman and his hawkish Yisrael Beitenu party.

Mr Lieberman resigned over a Gaza ceasefire deal, which on Tuesday ended the worst flare-up between Israel and the territory's Islamist rulers Hamas since the 2014 war.

Mr Kahlon's centre-right Kulanu party holds 10 parliamentary seats and is vital to the survival of Mr Netanyahu's ruling coalition.

While the next elections are scheduled for November next year, Mr Kahlon has called for polls to be held "as soon as possible".

"I'm going to meet Moshe Kahlon before the weekly minister's council on Sunday for one last attempt to convince him not to bring down the government," Mr Netanyahu, who heads the Likud party, said on Saturday on Twitter.

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"We can't bring down a right-wing government. All members of Likud want to continue serving the state for another year."

Mr Kahlon, however, told Israel's Channel 2 on Saturday evening that he did not think it was possible to keep a coalition going with such a slim majority.

"We have to act responsibly," he said.

The prime minister held crunch talks on Friday with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, whose religious nationalist Jewish Home party has also threatened to quit unless he is given Mr Lieberman's job.

The party's eight parliamentary politicians are another crucial component of the premier's razor-thin majority.

On Friday, Mr Netanyahu said he was temporarily taking over the defence minister post.

Om Saturday, Mr Bennet told Israel's second channel that Mr Lieberman had "collapsed the government, there is no more government and we are heading towards elections - there is no other alternative".

"We have agreed with Moshe Khalon that there is no more government," he said.