Coalition resolves crisis over ultra-Orthodox conscription

Israel’s coalition crisis was resolved yesterday evening when the Prime Minister allowed a free vote on new legislation to exempt ultra-Orthodox men from military conscription.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met his senior coalition partners and agreed that the Ministerial Committee for Legislation would allow coalition parties a free vote on the conscription legislation. Yisrael Beteinu, which refused to back the bill, were therefore able to vote against it without the government collapsing.

Defence Minister and Yisrael Beteinu head Avigdor Lieberman, who had threatened to leave the coalition earlier in the week, said yesterday: “A word is a word. The deal that we stood for all along has been fully accepted. Yisrael Beteinu will vote against the draft-dodging bill.” The Knesset voted 59-38 in favour of the bill.

According to the agreement, when the Knesset returns for its summer session, the bill will include recommendations from Lieberman’s Defence Ministry. It will have two further readings before the legislation is approved. The coalition partners also agreed to work to keep the coalition in place until the end of its term, not to introduce any more bills relating to religion and the state and to pass the 2019 budget. The Israeli media credited Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Interior Minister Ari Deri for working out the compromise deal.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said: “Common sense won. The national interest prevailed. I congratulate my friends in the coalition who took part in solving this crisis. We will continue to serve Israel. A lot of work is still ahead.”

Netanyahu had been accused of engineering a coalition crisis leading to early elections as a way of renewing his mandate before a possible criminal indictment. Last night he thanked his coalition partners and goaded the opposition, asking rhetorically: “That was scary right? Glad to see the colour has returned to your cheeks, I know I have saved you a lot of bitter disappointment because if there were elections I would have returned to this podium.”

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