Israel PM loses crucial partner
Kadima’s Shaul Mofaz has served as Israel’s deputy premier for only 70 days. REUTERS photoembers of Israel’s center-right Kadima party decided to leave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition on July 17 after the sides failed to agree on a new universal draft law.
A vast majority of the party led by Shaul Mofaz was in favor of leaving the coalition after joining only 70 days before, reducing the governing coalition by 28 members but still leaving it with a majority.
Netanyahu and Mofaz were locked in a dispute over the wording of legislation to replace the so-called Tal Law, which allowed ultra-Orthodox Jews to defer military service. Kadima had called for universal military or community service, with penalties for those who failed to comply. But Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party and its ultra-Orthodox coalition partners wanted a more gradual approach and opposed individual sanctions.
‘I’m keeping my word’
Jewish men and women in Israel are drafted at the age of 18 for stints of three or two years and public pressure from the secular majority has mounted for a more equal sharing of the military burden. The break-up was widely seen in Israel as a serious political blow to Netanyahu, whose recruitment of the Kadima leader in May to form one of the biggest governments in the country’s history had newspapers hailing him as “King Bibi.”
“I committed that if we don’t succeed in our mission [of bringing a more egalitarian draft law] we won’t remain in the coalition,” Agence France-Presse quoted Mofaz as saying. “I’m keeping my word. We are returning, with our heads held high, to serve Israel in the opposition.” Mofaz said he had notified Netanyahu of his resignation as deputy prime minister. He will regain his position as head of the opposition in two days.
“I regret your decision to pass on the opportunity to make a historic change,” Netanyahu wrote to Mofaz following the move. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled the Tal Law, which is set to expire on Aug. 1, was unconstitutional and needed to be rewritten.
On May 8, Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset, joined the coalition in a surprise deal that forestalled plans for a snap election and expanded the coalition to 94 members out of a Parliament of 120. If nothing changes in the immediate future, ultra-Orthodox Jews, exempted from the draft by the Tal Law, will be obliged to enlist as of Aug.1, in accordance with the court’s ruling. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on that date he would begin drafting an unspecified number of ultra-religious soldiers and propose temporary legislation until a more permanent arrangement can be made in the coming months. The political turmoil also raised fresh speculation among some Israeli commentators about an early election ahead of a national ballot due in late 2013.
Go to elections on Nov: opposition
Opposition’s Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich called on yesterday Netanyahu to dissolve the Knesset in its current session and to schedule elections, ending what she described as a “two-month political circus” that brought shame to the political system. Yechimovich pointed to Nov. 27 as the best date to go to the polls, Jerusalem Post reported. Elections would need to be called this week before the summer recess begins in order for polls to take place this year.
Avigdor Lieberman, whose ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu is a key member of Israel’s ruling coalition, also said he had no intention of leaving government.