Netanyahu accused of stoking 'fake' crisis to force poll

Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attend the graduation ceremony at the National Security College

Members of Mr Netanyahu's government have been quarrelling over whether to extend military draft exemptions afforded to ultra-Orthodox men.

Earlier today, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Litzman skipped this week's meeting of coalition party heads over the disagreements regarding the bill.

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Hardening his rhetoric against the prime minister, Bennett said that "if Netanyahu forces elections on the public for personal reasons, the public will settle a score with him and we will consider running for the premiership". At the same time, the issue that started the crisis, the military draft bill, appears to be resolved, after the Haredim have received a green light from their various Torah sages to reach a compromise.

Polls suggest he could remain prime minister and his Likud party could win the most seats in fresh elections despite police investigations into his affairs.

Speaking to reporters whilst embarking on his trip to the USA last week, the prime minister said he was not seeking early elections but said that if a coalition compromise was not reached, it could be likely.

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On Saturday, Lieberman tweeted: "There are moments in life when you need to go with what you believe, and not with what is advisable or what will pay off".

But it was perhaps his short speech at the U.N. exhibit and the press melee that followed that best summed up the gap between Netanyahu's successes in the United States this week and the growing dissent back home, especially in the media. "All the rest is a fake crisis", he wrote on Twitter. In response, UTJ leader Moshe Gafni said: "So there will be a Passover Eve without a finance minister".

"One thing is clear - we can not maintain a 61-member coalition", Netanyahu said, alluding to Liberman's threats to quit the government unless a solution to the military draft bill dispute is found. Netanyahu proceeded to accuse members of his own Likud party of sabotaging the negotiations.

Victory could bolster his political standing ahead of the attorney general's decision on indictments.

The coalition crisis, which first began last month, deteriorated last week during Netanyahu's trip overseas, as haredi lawmakers faced-off against Liberman, who has refused to support a draft bill pushed by UTJ and Shas, calling haredi demands "extortion" by "extremist elements" he said had "taken Israel captive".

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