What You Need To Know Right Now About Israel: Game Of Chicken In Coalition Negotiations Enters New Phase

Israel may be headed for an unprecedented new election as coalition negotiations are stuck on the issue of the ultra-orthodox draft

Benjamin Netanyahu must present to the Knesset a government that relies of the support of the majority of the 120 Knesset members by this Wednesday. If he does not, the Knesset may dissolve itself and then new elections will be called, or if that does not happen, the president may task another member of the Knesset, in this case Benny Gantz, the leader of the second largest Blue and White faction, to try his hand at building a coalition government and give him the same four weeks plus two weeks extension that Netanyahu has already received.

The current impasse stems, at least ostensibly, from the collision of interests between the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties and the secular Israel Beiteinu party regarding the draft deferments that are received by Yeshiva students who make studying the Torah their full time occupation. A new law has been proposed that would require certain numbers of men (all women get an immediate no questions asked release from the draft on religious grounds should they want it) to be drafted from the haredi communities. This law is a must have for the head of Israel Beitenu Avigdor Lieberman, but anathema to the haredi parties.

There are also those that are saying that the drafting of the haredim is only a way for Lieberman, who started in Netanyahu’s Likud party, but since then has had a troubled relationship with Israel’s longest serving PM, to get back at his old boss by putting him through all seven levels of hell before he finally makes good on his stated support for Netanyahu and his recommendation to the president to task Netanyahu with forming the government. It is not clear who will blink first in this game of chicken, but the secretariat of the Likud has prepared a draft dissolution resolution for the Knesset to consider on Wednesday and reopened the Likud’s election headquarters in preparation for a new election.

In the meantime, Blue and White party has declared that they would oppose a new election before they are given a chance to form the government. The haredi parties, which have a stable base of constituents fear a new election the least, while Lieberman whose voters are all right-wingers who came from ex-Soviet countries, may pay a heavy price if he appears to be the one who unnecessarily denied Israel the chance of another center right government and plunged the country into the unprecedented chaos of a new election cycle without a government ever being formed. This underlying reality is the reason that the odds are still in favor of a new government being sworn in just before the Wednesday deadline.

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