On Sunday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) hinted at Netanyahu’s ability to solve the current coalition crisis easily, calling it a “Fake crisis.” She claimed that letting the government fall would be irresponsible, urging the PM to work with his coalition partners on a compromise formula that everyone could live with.
Shaked also warned against the rise of a left-leaning government come next elections, so why give the left the pleasure of toppling a rightwing government?
Sunday night, Finance Minister Kahlon (Kulanu) met with Deputy Health Minister Litzman (UTJ) to try and save the coalition. Litzman is the key vote in his party, seeing as he represents his rabbinic mentor, the Gerrer Rebbe, who is a staunch foe of any bill that includes drafting young Haredi men into the IDF. The meeting did not yield positive results and no agreements were reached.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is at the AIPAC conference in the US, held a round of talks with several senior politicians, including his own party’s Minister Yariv Levin, who is in charge of resolving the crisis, and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who continues to oppose the Haredim on the draft law.
Here is the simple solution Shaked described, according to many in the Israeli media: the existing draft law states that the government must set annual IDF recruitment goals for the Haredi sector. As long as enough Haredim enlist in the army each year, the rest are free to continue to study undisturbed. Last year, for example, the goal was 3,200 Haredi recruits, but in practice only 2,850 were actually counted in IDF records. In such a case, the law empowers to either issue sanctions to compel the needed number to enlist, or to lower the goal.
To those of us who have been following Haredi recruitment efforts since the Tal Law of 2002, this “simple solution” is reminiscent of the popular ditty “There’s a hole in the bucket.” The Tal Law, named after retired judge Zvi Tal whose committee recommended it, prescribed a slow process of integrating Haredi recruits into the military, an effort that reached around 3,000 recruits a year. But in 2012, the Dorit Beinish court declared that the law was working too slowly and threw it out, calling on the Knesset to legislate something faster. It was the court president’s last major decision on the eve of her retirement.
Six years later, the recruitment figures are actually down and the only way for Netanyahu to keep his partnership with the Haredim alive appears to be rolling things back to where they were in 2002 through 2012.
Thank you, Judge Beinish.
As to the crisis, fake or real, before his previous two terms, in 2009 and 2013, PM Netanyahu made sure to reach ironclad deals with his key future partners ahead of the elections. This is how he took away the prize from Kadima’s Tzipi Livni in 2009 despite the fact that she had the highest number of seats that year, and this is why he merged Likud with Liberman’s party ahead of the 2013 vote.
So that if Bibi goes to war and declares new elections – be certain that the next coalition deal is already in his back pocket.
Which explains why Shaked, as well as Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, have been so vociferous on the “fake crisis” thing. Unlike all of Netanyahu’s other coalition partners, who can trade horses with the left as easily as with the right – and UTJ members have stated they would have no problem working with Prime Minister Avi Gabai from Labor – Habayit Hayehudi has nowhere to go but with Bibi.