A key Israeli minister said yesterday he will not quit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition for now despite sharp disagreements, potentially ending a crisis that has threatened to topple the government and provoke snap polls.
The announcement by Education Minister Naftali Bennett was a dramatic climbdown from his Jewish Home party's earlier threat to leave Netanyahu's coalition if he was not named defence minister.
Netanyahu has refused to give the post to Bennett, one of his main political rivals, despite the coalition crisis.
Bennett, whose far-right party holds eight seats in parliament, said he would give Netanyahu time to correct course on a range of issues.
"If the prime minister is serious in his intentions, and I want to believe his words from last night, I am saying here to the prime minister we are removing at this moment all of our political demands and will help you in the huge mission of making Israel win again," Bennett said in a statement to journalists broadcast live on television.
He acknowledged the backlash he may face for backing down from the earlier ultimatum.
"I know I'll pay a political price -- not the end of the world, you win some, you lose some," Bennett said.
"It's better that the prime minister beats me in a political battle than (Hamas leader Ismail) Haniya beats Israel."
Bennett's comments followed an impassioned address to the nation on Sunday night by Netanyahu.
In the address, Netanyahu said he would retain the defence portfolio for now and seek to convince coalition partners to remain in the government.