Netanyahu faces coalition crisis

2012-07-03 15:33

Jerusalem - A fierce debate over how to draft religious men into the Israeli military has sparked the first crisis in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's newly expanded coalition government.

The government is racing to draw up a new draft law ahead of a court-ordered 1 August deadline. The Supreme Court has ruled the current system, which exempts ultra-Orthodox men from mandatory military service, is illegal.

On Monday, Netanyahu disbanded a parliamentary committee working on a new draft law due to deep disagreements among its members. Ultra-Orthodox parties oppose any change in the current system.

Netanyahu's decision led his largest coalition partner, Kadima, to threaten to leave the government. Kadima only joined the coalition in May with the goal of reforming the current draft system.

Kadima's leader, Shaul Mofaz, angrily accused Netanyahu of breaking agreements that had drawn him into the government.

He said that the disbanded committee, led by a Kadima lawmaker, would still issue its recommendations this week, and that if Netanyahu did not take the "necessary step" of using the report as the basis for a new draft system, "the national unity government will come to an end".

Key principles

An Israeli official said that Netanyahu was working behind the scenes to resolve the standoff. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the matter with the media, said Netanyahu planned a series of meetings with coalition partners this week in search of a solution.

He said Netanyahu remains committed to key principles worked out with Kadima: Ensuring that all sectors of Israeli society perform national service; making sure that changes are implemented gradually; and maintaining national unity.

The issue of draft exemptions is among the most divisive in Israeli society.

Under a longstanding system, Israel allows ultra-Orthodox males to skip otherwise mandatory military service in order to pursue religious studies. These exemptions, initially reserved for several hundred religious scholars, have ballooned and now apply to tens of thousands of religious men of military age.

The exemptions have bred widespread resentment among Israel's secular majority, which argues that it is bearing an unfair burden.

The disbanded committee had also been looking for ways to get Israel's Arab minority to do a civilian national service.

Israeli Arabs are not required to serve in the military, but the panel had aimed to incorporate Arabs into a civilian alternative in its goal to bring about more equality. Two committee members had resigned in recent days after concluding that the panel was backing down on forcing Arabs into national service.

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-03 15:57

    The fact that this hawkish coalition is threatened with a loss of power and legitimacy makes it, and by extension Israel, EXTREMELY dangerous.

      smili.fication - 2012-07-03 16:25

      I doubt it will get that far. Speculation by the media.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-03 17:23

      It is not inconceivable for the power hungry right-wing to involve that country in a tragic war with Iran in some misguided attempt to retain power and legitimacy. The Machiavellian strategy of these ideologues is to hang on to power by playing the fear card, BIG BAD IRANIANS usually does the trick.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-03 21:32

      Why would you even want that?

      nick.armstrong.1800 - 2012-07-04 15:34

      Quite frankly - Likud and its fellow right-wing coalition partners - don't need Kadima.. They had a stable, secure, coalition before Kadima joined in May.. They sought to include Kadima purely to make the government even more inclusive... Fact is - Netanyahu and his government will survive - with or without Kadima.. He is hugely popular in the polls too - Kadima and Labour wouldn't stand a chance if an election were held today.. I'm not taking sides here - just pointing out political fact - before people get mis-directed about the real state of affairs in Isreali politics.

  • blackjew69 - 2012-07-03 16:09

    Israel is bluffîng and very scared. With the Muslìm Brotherhood ín power in Egypt it finds ìtself isolated and it would not dare attack Iran wìthout the support of Egypt, and wíth the Camp David Accord in the balance it will be foolhardy to upset the apple cart. Egypt has the power to rally the muslim countries and unite them on a common antì-West agenda

      smili.fication - 2012-07-03 16:21

      None of them would seriously think of a full out attack on Isreal... causing it to lose hope and using it's nuclear weapons. We should wait and see what America will do...

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-03 19:20

      Shows how much you know. Very little. And, as a South African, why you'd want to supoort a truly oppressive regime in Iran is a total disgrace.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-03 21:31

      We live in a universe of duality, where there's light and dark in all things. It therefore comes down to growing the light, and making the dark lighter.

      nick.armstrong.1800 - 2012-07-04 15:39

      Mate - wake up! They tried 4 times - and got handed their @sses each time! If any country wants some more - go fetch - then expect the surface temperature of their capital cities to be in the vicinity of 3,000 degrees Celsius.......... LOL!

  • Tommo - 2012-07-03 23:44

    Israel needs to stand united at a time of complete chaos and turbulence in the middle east. Division makes them vulnerable. Compromise guys!!!

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