Israel averted a political crisis, and Netanyahu’s government will continue to lead for the time being, although some coalition partners may still bolt the coalition.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday morning found a solution to a political crisis that threatened to bring down his government and take Israel to early elections.
Members of the coalition have been quarreling over whether to extend military draft exemptions afforded to ultra-Orthodox men. The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Shas parties said they would not vote for the 2019 budget without the draft exemptions, while Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, a key secular partner, has vowed to bolt the coalition if the budget does not pass within the next few weeks.
Netanyahu agreed to extend the IDF draft exemptions. Yisrael Beiteinu said it will vote against the proposed solution, but Netanyahu still has the required 61 votes to pass the bill. Netanyahu, however, has said he prefers not to have such a narrow coalition.
On Monday morning, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation voted in favor of the bill, setting it on the path towards its first reading at the Knesset plenum and ultimately becoming law.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, however, is reported to oppose the bill because it does not meet legal requirements in its current wording, which aims for an annual quota for haredi enlistment in the IDF and national service at 3,800 people a year but does not spell out penalties or sanctions if the quotas are not me.
In addition, Orthodox parties want to expand the process for reviewing the quota system to every five years, up from the current standard of every year or two. Under current legislation, if the Haredi world fails to meet agreed-upon quotas, the draft exemption law could be voided and thousands of yeshiva (religious seminary) students could theoretically be drafted.
“The new draft of the ‘draft-dodging bill’ is an insult to the IDF and an insult to enlistees. According to this draft, the haredim will enlist if they want to. If they don’t want to, they won’t come. This is a national shame,” Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, stated on Facebook.
While legal experts say the law may have some flaws, coalition members have said they will iron out the issue, thus ensuring that all parties in question are satisfied.
The 2019 budget will be voted in on Wednesday, just before the Knesset leaves for the spring recess.
TPS contributed to this report