Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and repeatedly urged his feuding coalition partners to remain in his government – emphasizing that there was still time to settle their differences. The cabinet dispute centers on a long-standing division in Israeli society between the majority of Israelis who serve in the country’s military and the Jewish ultra-orthodox community that rejects any form of participation in the Israel Defense Forces, demanding a full religious exemption. While the ultra-orthodox parties within Netanyahu’s government only consist of 13 out of his coalition’s 67 mandates, the Prime Minister’s necessity to preserve at least 61 mandates out of the country’s 120 parliamentary seats to assure his government’s survival, has granted the ultra-orthodox factions disproportionate power. The leverage over the coalitions survival has once again instigated the dispute over military conscription, when the ultra-orthodox factions started drafting a bill that would extend exemptions for the country’s religious seminary students. The move has angered the remaining partners within the government’s coalition, citing an unequal share of the population’s burden within Israel’s defense establishment. Nevertheless, the determination by the Ultra-Orthodox parties to pass a bill on the matter amid strong opposition from other coalition-factions, primarily that of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, has threatened an imminent collapse of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. “Should there be an election, we will run, and we will win. But we are not there yet. The hour is late, but not too late. A supreme effort must be made, one last supreme effort in order to maintain the government in its current makeup for a sustainable period.” / “Because of the great challenges that stand before us, I call on my friends, and foremost Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the heads of the ultra-Orthodox parties, and I say to you: The hour is late but not too late, there is a need to act responsibly. The country needs a stable, firm and broad government which will operate over a sustained period. It needs our government,” Netanyahu said.
The plea by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not stirred Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman from his steadfast position on the matter, announcing during his weekly Yisrael Beiteinu faction meeting, that unless the ultra-orthodox parties pull back from passing the military conscription bill, he would have no other choice but to resign from the coalition. “As long as it (conscription bill) has not gone through second and third readings, we will fight from within (the government). The moment it passes the second and third readings, we will draw our own conclusions,” Lieberman said.