Israeli coalition to hold crunch talks on conscription law

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition partners are talking up the possibility of early elections, as the Israeli Parliament returns to business next week.

The issue of ultra-Orthodox conscription in the Israel Defence Forces, and disagreements within the coalition over how to implement it, could ultimately trigger early elections. According to a Supreme Court ruling, the Government must solve the problem by 2 December. Prime Minister Netanyahu has said his government was “making efforts” to solve the conscription issue and would be “happy” to see his government last until November 2019, the deadline for elections.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said: “Everyone knows that the issue is resolvable, but no one has brought us all together around one negotiating table and everyone is busy doing their own thing.”

He added: “The way I see it, we will agree to a date for elections after the local authority elections, unless something unforeseen happens. It won’t be in January or February, but it may be sometime around March, 2019.” Municipal elections are scheduled for 30 October, with second and third rounds to be held if needed on 14 November.

Coalition parties are also speculating about the outcome of bribery and corruption investigations into Prime Minister Netanyahu. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, a former Likud minister and head of the Kulanu party, said on Tuesday that Netanyahu cannot continue to lead Israel if he is indicted. Earlier this year Kahlon said he would pull out of the coalition if the Prime Minister is indicted. Such a move would lead to the Government’s collapse and early elections.

The finance minister said at the time he expected Netanyahu would step down if indicted, or that he would be forced out by other members of the coalition. The Israeli police have recommended that the Prime Minister be indicted and the final decision now rests with the Attorney-General.