Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urgently worked to break a deadlock in coalition negotiations Tuesday as the once far-fetched possibility of fresh general elections only months after April polls loomed ever larger.
Netanyahu has until Wednesday night to reach a coalition deal, but he has been unable to convince ex-defense minister Avigdor Lieberman to abandon a key demand and allow a government to be formed.
Failing to do so would be a major setback for Netanyahu, and the stakes are especially high with the premier facing possible indictment for corruption in the months ahead.
There have been reports that Netanyahu is seeking legislation in the new parliament that would result in him receiving immunity from prosecution, and new elections would delay those efforts and may make it impossible.
Beyond that, he faces the risk of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin opting to give the task of forming a new government to someone other than him.
Late Monday and overnight, Israel’s parliament took its first steps toward dissolving itself and holding new elections. Two further votes are needed to finalize it.
The prime minister has sought to pile pressure on Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beitenu party’s five seats are crucial to the coalition Netanyahu wants to form, but he has refused to back down.