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Netanyahu opposes early polls as graft probes intensify

Israeli media have raised the possibility of a June poll, with investigations potentially weakening Netanyahu's hold on a right-wing coalition
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he opposes early elections, as corruption probes linked to him intensify speculation over his future.

Israeli media have raised the possibility of a June poll, with graft investigations potentially weakening the premier's ability to hold together his right-wing coalition.

"There is no reason for that to happen if there is good will," Netanyahu said before departing for a visit to the United States late Saturday.

"For me, there is good will. I hope that the other [coalition] partners also have it."

Netanyahu will meet US President Donald Trump on Monday at the White House and is set to address pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC on Tuesday.

Netanyahu has said he will discuss the possibility of Trump attending the May opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem when he meets Trump on Monday.

Netanyahu made the comment late on Saturday before boarding a flight to the United States.

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"I'll definitely discuss with him that possibility," Netanyahu said in response to a journalist's question on whether he planned to invite Trump for the occasion.

"I'm very grateful to him for this historic decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move the American embassy to Jerusalem on our independence day," he said.

The May 14 date of the embassy opening coincides with the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel. 

Israeli police recommended Netanyahu's indictment in two corruption cases last month and investigations are continuing in others.

He and his wife Sara were questioned by police on Friday in a third case of alleged graft.

At the same time, there are signs that a split is emerging within his coalition that threatens to pull the government apart.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties want a law passed to allow religious students to continue to be exempted from military conscription.

Other members of the coalition oppose such a law, but the ultra-Orthodox have threatened to block a 2019 budget that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon wants to see approved this month.

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