Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a mounting rebellion by lawmakers in his ruling Likud Party, who met Monday in a bid to oust him as party leader.
If successful, the lawmakers’ campaign - led by Tel Aviv Mayor Roni Milo - almost certainly would trigger elections.
The mutiny was provoked by last week’s Likud convention, where Netanyahu and his colleagues pushed through a proposal to abolish primaries - giving the power to pick parliamentary candidates to a committee stacked with Netanyahu loyalists.
Many senior Likud officials, including Cabinet ministers and legislators, fear they will be shunted aside as Netanyahu moves to sideline possible challengers.
The lawmakers’ anger stoked discontent in a governing coalition already split over the collapsing peace process and other issues.
Likud members were also angered by reports that Netanyahu’s chief aide, Avigdor Lieberman, ordered delegates opposed to abolishing the primaries to be videotaped secretly, with the footage to be used later against Netanyahu challengers.
Netanyahu, who won the prime minister’s post in May 1996, is expected to try to win over the lawmakers after he returns from a week-long trip to Britain and the United States.
In California on Monday, Netanyahu said he would cut short his visit to attend to matters in the Middle East. He said he would make a stopover in London to possibly hold a few meetings. Israeli media reported that he would meet there with Jordan’s King Hussein to discuss the Gulf conflict.