US withdrawal from Syria will not change Israeli policy: Netanyahu


Following a meeting, coalition heads with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government decided the elections will be held on April 9 "in the name of budgetary and national responsibility", according to a spokesman.

Netanyahu, speaking to journalists, laid out what he sees as his achievements and said he hoped for a similar coalition to the current one. "We ask for a clear mandate from the voter to continue to lead the state of Israel in our own way".

He said Netanyahu had settled on the April election, roughly seven months ahead of schedule, in part to "pre-empt" an indictment.

The latest opinion polls forecast another solid victory for Mr Netanyahu, although corruption claims could put paid to that.

Washington has for years supported the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria, as part of an global anti-jihadist coalition dominated by the People's Protection Units (YPG).

The likelihood of an early election increased in November after Mr Netanyahu's defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, quit the government, leaving the ruling coalition with its one-seat majority.

But a new bill extending the military draft to Jewish ultra-Orthodox men appeared to be the final trigger for the government's downfall. Netanyahu's ultra-Orthodox partners are demanding the legislation be weakened and his razor-thin parliamentary majority seems to be making such a compromise impossible.

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Ultra-Orthodox parties consider conscription a taboo.

Yair Lapid, head of the opposition Yesh Atid party and Netanyahu's main challenger, clearly announced that his faction would not back the contentious legislation, calling any compromise "a payoff to draft dodgers".

"So if it's too hard, we need elections", Netanyahu responded. Another term would also allow Netanyahu to push forward with his nationalistic agenda and worldwide campaign to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Netanyahu - who has been a mainstay in Israeli politics for decades - is battling bribery charges that could potentially bring an end his career. Those bright prospects, however, could be derailed by a looming decision by the country's attorney general on whether to file charges against Netanyahu.

The justice ministry announced on Wednesday that deliberations were continuing and were "not dependent on political events". He has vowed to carry on and keep serving.

"He wants to win".

Instead, the biggest threat appears to be posed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who must soon decide on whether to indict the prime minister. "The people of Israel have re-elected me for a fourth time,"' Hazan explained, adding that if Netanyahu is re-elected, it would send a message to the attorney general that "you can not overturn the results of a democratic election".