The previous two elections ended in a draw between Mr. Netanyahu's right-wing-religious coalition and the center-left bloc led by Benny Gantz, the centrist former army chief, with neither able to form a majority coalition. Recent polls before the Likud primary showed Mr. Netanyahu's support softening after his indictment but not enough to change the unforgiving math that has paralyzed the Israeli government for the past year. Moderate conservatives concerned about upholding the rule of law may find it difficult to vote for Mr. Netanyahu, Ms. Talshir said, noting that in more educated, well-heeled districts like north Tel Aviv, Mr. Saar made a strong showing. The one likely outcome of Mr. Netanyahu's new lease on political life is that the March 2 election will again be ugly and divisive, analysts said. It will pit the "Only Bibi" camp of supporters, who lovingly call Mr. Netanyahu by his nickname, attack the law enforcement authorities and try to delegitimize any opposition, against the other Israel that cannot accept the idea of a prime minister facing prosecution for serious crimes.
JERUSALEM – Israel's defense minister announced his resignation on Friday, citing a lack of "trust" in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after reports in recent days that he is soon to be replaced. In a Facebook post, Moshe Yaalon said that he told Netanyahu that "following his conduct in recent developments and in light of the lack of trust in him, I am resigning from the government and the Knesset (Israel's parliament) and taking a time out from political life." Netanyahu and Yaalon have clashed in recent days over the role of the military in public discourse, with the prime minister arguing that military officials should not discuss policy matters publicly. Tensions between Yaalon and Netanyahu escalated in March, when military leaders criticized a soldier who was caught on video fatally shooting an already-wounded Palestinian attacker. The solider is now on trial for manslaughter.
JERUSALEM – Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday threatened to destroy Syrian air defense systems after they fired ground-to-air missiles at Israeli warplanes carrying out strikes. "The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation," Lieberman said on Israeli public radio. Israeli warplanes hit several targets in Syria on Friday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the strikes targeted weapons bound for Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement. Syria's military said it had downed one of the Israeli planes and hit another as they were carrying out the predawn strikes near the famed desert city of Palmyra that it recaptured from jihadis this month. The Israeli military denied that any planes had been hit.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee's 2019 policy conference--the pro-Israel lobby's marquee annual event--sometimes felt defined by those who weren't in attendance as much as by those who were. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been due to address the conference in person on Tuesday morning but cut his visit to Washington short after a Hamas rocket attack injured seven people in central Israel, prompting Israeli retaliation against Gaza. Then there were the Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential nomination who chose not to attend, earning praise from the liberal group MoveOn, which had publicly called on them not to participate in a conference put on by an organization described as a "partisan lobbying group that has undermined diplomatic efforts" and given a platform to Islamophobes. These included Sens. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar, who all have spoken at AIPAC in the past. Vice President Mike Pence called out the candidates in a combative speech for "boycotting this very conference."