Israel may find itself heading to another round of national parliamentary elections, after coalition negotiations appear to be deadlocked, with less than 36 hours to go until the legal deadline for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to present his new government to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. The stand-off revolves around fundamental disagreements between Netanyahu’s would-be coalition partners, particularly the Ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Shas factions against the secular-right Yisrael Beiteinu party. The reported-dispute pertains to a controversial military draft law, which demands the conscription to all of Israel’s citizens, including religious seminary students who under the current legal arrangement may delay their service if they declare “Torah-Study as their profession.” While the Ultra-Orthodox factions actively seek the exemption of all seminary students, a bipartisan consensus among Israel’s secular parties demands the ‘military burden’ be shared equally be all citizens. That is why Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Liberman vowed to reject any compromise over a previously-proposed bill to enlist the majority of the country’s seminary students into the IDF.
Meanwhile, a senior political source familiar with the ongoing coalition negotiations insisted that while disagreements surrounding the military draft law persist, the true crisis is related to Jerusalem’s overall defense policy and specifically regarding Gaza. The source, who adked to remain anonymous as he is not permitted to officially speak on the matter, told TV7 that “the real dispute pertains to Liberman’s demand to receive complete authority over Jerusalem’s defense policy and conduct.” As opposed to his previous tenure as Israel’s top defense official, Liberman – who has once again been offered the same portfolio – is currently demanding all executive powers connected to the ministerial position, with the apparent aim of adopting a more unyielding-position against terror emanating from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The source explained that “Liberman could not agree to a scenario in which rocket-fire would be met with more Israeli concessions to Gazan terror-groups; an unacceptable recurring cycle that has inflicted much misery and pain – particularly on the southern communities of Israel.”