Only four days remain until the extended deadline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received from President Reuven Rivlin to forge a new coalition government, and there’s no solution in sight to the crisis over the draft law. On Saturday night, Netanyahu held an emergency meeting with Minister Yariv Levin, but at this stage no solution seems to have been reached which could lead to a compromise.
Netanyahu will spend the remaining four days trying to pressure Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman to agree to a compromise. If he fails, Netanyahu will try to form a bloc of parties that would recommend to the president to declare new elections, rather than use his authority to assign the task to the next in line, Kachol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu believes that Liberman has decided not to enter the government at any price and is only attempting to push the Haredi parties into a corner where they would be forced to push their own hard-line and refuse any compromise.
It seems to be working. Last week, Liberman proposed a compromise that would allow the Haredi coalition partners to leave the plenum during the vote on the IDF draft law, so they won’t be on the record as supporting it. But so far UTJ has rejected Liberman’s compromise, insisting they won’t be absent from the vote which they had sworn to defeat.
On Friday, Liberman posted in Facebook that he supports only Netanyahu for prime minister, but would not hesitate to go to re-election over his own principles. In a biting note, Liberman wrote, “We said clearly that we would support only Netanyahu as the candidate for prime minister, but the rightwing is not a personality cult.”
He stood his ground against the Haredim, saying, “We are in favor of a Jewish state and against a halachic state. So, accept our offer, and if not, we will go to repeat elections.”
According to Haaretz. Netanyahu’s fixer, Natan Eshel, has not given up his effort to recruit a Kachol Lavan deserter, who would give the PM a 61-seat coalition, with Liberman out. Another idea being discussed is that one 4-seat United Torah Judaism partner, Yaakov Litzman’s Agudath Israel, whose spiritual leader, the Gerer Rebbe, is the one holding steadfast against the current draft bill, would stay out of the government. Liberman would then move in with his 5 seats, giving Netanyahu 61-seats, the bill would pass, and Litzman would return.
By the end of last week, UTJ has had enough of Liberman’s taunting and issued a statement saying, “Every reasonable person understands that Avigdor Liberman does not want to participate in the Netanyahu government for his own reasons. So he quit the government and now he uses the draft law as an excuse, when in reality he is the only one that does not allow the establishment of a rightwing government.”
“Apparently he desires to topple Netanyahu and to form a leftist government,” they concluded, seconding an almost identical statement that was circulated by the Likud against Liberman last week.
In past Netanyahu coalition negotiations, the miraculous, government-saving compromise frequently appeared at the very last-minute before the deadline. But this stalemate does not appear to many to be a political ploy. Every potential coalition partner, with the exception of Aryeh Deri’s Shas, is still holding on stubbornly to their initial reservations: Liberman won’t budge unless every line in the draft law he had written as defense minister with the IDF brass is honored; UTJ won’t budge until the draft law is disemboweled completely; Kulanu’s Moshe Kahlon would not join a small government without Liberman; and Bezalel Smotrich and Rafi Peretz insist on getting the justice and education portfolios or they, too, would walk.