I'm not quitting, says Bennett, reducing chance of snap Israeli election

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Naftali Bennett says he will give Israeli prime minister time to correct course following controversial ceasefire deal over Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett during a cabinet meeting (AFP)
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Tuesday 20 November 2018 11:32 UTC
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Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday he will not resign from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government despite sharp disagreements.

Instead, Bennett, of the far-right Jewish Home party, said he will give Netanyahu time to correct course on a range of issues, making a snap election less likely.

I prefer that Netanyahu wins politically than Ismail Haniyeh in security

- Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett

"If Netanyahu was serious in his speech [on Sunday] about dealing with security issues, we will give him a chance and we will remove all of our demands and we will stay in the government," Bennett said.

Bennett said he believes he will pay a "political price" in the coming months for his decision. "But I prefer that Netanyahu wins politically than [Hamas leader] Ismail Haniyeh in security."

The education minister also criticised Netanyahu for allowing residents of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank, to stay in place despite a high court approving the village's demolition.

The future of Netanyahu's coalition government has been in crisis since Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned last Wednesday over a ceasefire deal that followed the worst escalation in violence between Israeli and Palestinian fighters in Gaza since the 2014 war.

On Sunday, Bennett's party threatened to pull out of Netanyahu's coalition if the education minister was not named as the new defence minister. Had he withdrawn, the prime minister would have been left with a minority government making an election likely ahead of a national ballot scheduled for November 2019.

But Netanyahu named himself to the post despite risking the downfall of his coalition government.

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Why Netanyahu really pushed for a Gaza ceasefire

In an impassioned televised address on Sunday, the prime minister denounced calls for snap elections as "irresponsible" and used his address to defend his security credentials and make the case for why he wants to hold his coalition together.

"We are in a particularly complex security situation...In times like these, you do not overthrow a government. It's irresponsible," Netanyahu was quoted by Haaretz as saying.

“The security of the nation is beyond politics, and the security of the nation is also beyond personal concerns."