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Talk of early election amid coalition disagreement on public broadcaster

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Israel’s Prime Minister suggested over the weekend that a snap election could be called if his coalition does not agree to prevent the launch of a new public broadcasting corporation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clashed with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on the issue last week. The two had appeared to reach a compromise, whereby the new corporation would begin broadcasting as long as Kahlon supported a new bill over fresh oversight for the body.

However, on Saturday evening Netanyahu told the public via social media that he had changed his mind, after hearing the personal stories of those set to be fired from the old broadcasting authority. He suggested that he would call an early general election unless the new corporation was rescinded.

Netanyahu has long resisted the corporation. However, Kahlon has insisted that it would be too expensive to shut it down or postpone its start date, which is scheduled for the end of next month. He has also suggested that Netanyahu’s persistence over the issue revolves around his desire to exert greater control over the media. Some commentators have also suggested elections would stymie two current criminal investigations into Netanyahu.

A number of coalition ministers, including from Netanyahu’s Likud Party, have criticised the idea of early elections. Transport Minister Yisrael Katz told Israel Radio that “you don’t go to elections over a media argument”. His Likud colleague, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said that early elections would do “pure damage” to good governance.

Defence Minister and Yisrael Beitenu head Avigdor Lieberman said: “Anyone with intelligence understands that elections are the last thing the Jewish people need at this moment.”

Jewish Home’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called for “responsibility and discretion” to prevent elections.

This morning, media reports suggest that another compromise deal over the public broadcast is being worked out following the apparent opposition from colleagues towards a ballot. Israel Radio says that Likud Minister Yariv Levin, considered a close Netanyahu ally, and Finance Ministry Director General Shai Babad met last night in an attempt to resolve the issue.