Military draft law brews trouble for Netanyahu's coalition

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alongside police chief Roni Alshiech
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alongside police chief Roni

14 March, 2018

"I want to thank my coalition partners who acted responsibly so that we could continue to lead the State of Israel with determination and with success", Netanyahu said at the beginning of his speech.

Coalition chiefs on Tuesday evening hailed the compromise deal achieved at the last minute which seems to have solved a coalition crisis that had nearly dismantled the government, with Netanyahu taking credit for the agreement.

"I call on all the coalition partners, first and foremost Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, to remain in the government and to continue this partnership in order to guarantee security, prosperity and stability for the State of Israel", the prime minister said. Polls still show his Likud party in a dominant position despite Netanyahu's legal woes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Coalition head David Amsalem at a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset on February 26, 2018.

According to the agreed deal, the conscription bill will now be frozen until the Knesset returns from its recess in mid-April, when a government bill drafted by the Defense Ministry will be proposed and merged with the private bill, taking the army's personnel needs into account as the Knesset takes up once again the question of ultra-Orthodox draft exemptions.

Their demand has run up against Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's requirement that the budget is passed before the end of parliament's current term on March 18.

The coalition has been at loggerheads since ultra-Orthodox parties said they would not support next year's budget unless a law is passed to exempt religious students from military service.

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A ministerial committee would also have to vote down an appeal to the conscription legislation. Though he has become a responsible cabinet member ("the most adult among them", we hear sometimes) and apparently not a bad minister of defense, the Russian base of his party is shrinking and one of the former members of his parliamentary faction has made a decision to form her own party thus competing with the man who once was her boss.

Under Tuesday's compromise, the five-seat secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, which opposed the bill, will be allowed to vote against it.

Netanyahu however says that he does not want to do so, calling it unsustainable.

The police have already recommended indicting Netanyahu in two bribery cases, but the attorney general is still reviewing the evidence to decide whether to charge Netanyahu.

In one case, Netanyahu and his family are accused of accepting expensive gifts from wealthy supporters in exchange for financial benefits or favors.

The Arab Gulf states consider Israel an ally against the Iranian threat, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News last night.

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