JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel made an impassioned attempt on Sunday to salvage his crumbling government, warning his teetering coalition partners that toppling the government at such a complex time for national security would be “irresponsible.”
In a live 10-minute address timed for the main evening television news broadcasts, Mr. Netanyahu drew on his military record and political clout to try to prevent early elections, listing his accomplishments in what commentators described as a pre-emptive campaign pitch.
“We are in the midst of a battle, and in the middle of a battle we don’t abandon our posts,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “In the middle of a battle, we do not play politics. The security of the nation is beyond politics, and the security of the nation is also beyond personal considerations.”
The political crisis was precipitated by the resignation on Wednesday of the hard-line defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who cited the government’s lack of resolve in handling the latest conflict with Gaza — a move that critics said had more to do with Mr. Lieberman’s own political agenda.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who leads another party in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition — the hawkish Jewish Home party — then demanded to be named defense minister; he was rebuffed by the prime minister.
Mr. Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also of Jewish Home are scheduled to make statements on Monday morning, when they are expected to issue an ultimatum or even quit the government.
An exit by Jewish Home would bring down the government, forcing elections as early as March, since Mr. Lieberman’s withdrawal of his party from the coalition last week left it with a precarious majority of one seat in Parliament.
Elections were originally scheduled to take place a year from now.
Mr. Netanyahu — who also serves as foreign minister and, nominally, as health minister — said that he was for now taking on the role of defense minister. In addition to the volatile situation along the southern border with Gaza, Israel has been grappling with what it views as the graver threat of Iranian entrenchment across its northern border, in Syria.
Mr. Lieberman quit his post as defense minister after the government accepted what he and many other Israelis viewed as a premature and humiliating cease-fire with Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, to end a fierce 48-hour bout of cross-border fighting.
Mr. Netanyahu said that he understood the criticism, but that the public could not be privy to all of the details for security reasons. He also hinted at plans for further military action.
“I will not say this evening when we will act and how we will act,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “I have a clear plan. I know what to do and when to do it. And we will do it.”
“We will overcome our enemies,” he added gravely. “And I tell you in advance, it will require sacrifice.”
Recalling his service to the country, and how he had lost friends, his older brother and almost his own life in battle, he said, “I dedicate my whole life for the security of Israel.”
He recounted his efforts as a former finance minister to strengthen the country’s economy, and said that Israel’s international relations were now “at an all-time peak, without a drop of exaggeration.”
Pressing his point that early elections would be an unnecessary distraction from the urgent affairs of state, he hurried off with the parting words “I’m going to work.”