Erdogan and Netanyahu begin new war of words

"Accused of fraud in investigations carried out in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to manipulate the global community", Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party spokesman Omer Celik also said in a tweet.

Police have recommended he be indicted on bribery and breach of trust charges in three different cases. The country has always been eagerly awaiting the attorney general's decision on whether to press charges, as opposition figures have called on Netanyahu to resign because of his legal woes.

However, a separate crisis appears to be the cause of the decision to call an early election - a new law extending the military draft to ultra-Orthodox men.

Netanyahu's coalition has been teetering on the edge with a one-seat majority since the November 14 resignation of the Israeli minister for military affairs, Avigdor Liberman, who stepped down over the Tel Aviv's handling of ongoing tensions in the Gaza Strip.

The justice ministry announced on Wednesday that deliberations were continuing and were "not dependent on political events".

JERUSALEM Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today called early elections for April, setting the stage for a three-month campaign clouded by a series of corruption investigations against the long-serving Israeli leader.

The decision comes with the coalition struggling to agree on a key bill related to ultra-Orthodox Jews serving in the military.

Earlier today, Lapid, a harsh critic of the religious parties, said he was rescinding his support for the draft bill, saying the planned compromise essentially rewarded draft dodgers.

"So if it's too hard, we need elections", Netanyahu responded.

Netanyahu has angrily dismissed the accusations against him, characterizing them as part of a media-driven witch-hunt that is obsessed with removing him from office. Charges against the prime minister is expected in the next several months, but the early elections could influence the attorney general's timing.

The latest diplomatic row began after Erdogan warned young Turks on Saturday: "Do not kick the enemy you have brought down to the ground".

Though the polls now don't bode well for most of the centre and left-wing opposition parties, there was widespread excitement among them at the prospect of a new election.

The decision, if approved by a Knesset vote necessitated by Israeli law, would come just over four years after the last Knesset elections, held on March 17, 2015. "If we manage to do this, we'll win", he said, according to a Likud statement.

Netanyahu, now in his fourth term as prime minister, has been governing with a slim majority of 61 seats in the 120-member parliament. "It was right not to go to elections then and I think it is perfectly sensible to go elections now".

  • Rogelio Becker