Defense Chief Lauds Signs of Compromise on Draft Bill: 'Anyone Looking for Excuse to Call Elections Should Keep Looking'

Avigdor Lieberman declined to say he would oppose the changes in the wording of the draft bill in the context of a compromise with the ultra-Orthodox parties, as he declared a week ago

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks at a faction meeting of the party he chairs, Yisrael Beiteinu, October 15, 2018.
Emil Salman

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) on Monday noted approvingly the signs of compromise in the position of Agudat Yisrael on the conscription bill.

“I have heard the decision of the Agudat Yisrael Council of Torah Sages. It’s a levelheaded, smart and responsible decision, and anyone who was looking for an excuse to move up the elections, should look for another excuse,” he said.

Lieberman added at the meeting of his Knesset faction that he “assumes that we will also succeed in overcoming the obstacle of conscription, and it won’t be a reason for a coalition crisis even if the Haredim vote against.”

Lieberman didn’t say he would oppose the changes in the wording of the draft bill in the context of a compromise with the ultra-Orthodox parties, as he declared a week ago.

“I don’t intend to explain more than that,” he said. “There’s an excellent law. What’s clear is that even if the Haredim vote against, nobody will leave the coalition.”

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) also discussed the draft bill at his faction’s meeting, saying he would support the version of the law that is acceptable to the Israel Defense Forces.

“The draft bill is not a plan for the politicians, it’s not a plan for solving political problems, it’s not a plan for solving coalition problems,” he said. “The entity that drafts soldiers is the IDF. Not rabbis and not politicians. Therefore, if there’s a plan that is not acceptable to the army, we won’t support it.”

On Sunday it was reported that Agudat Yisrael’s Council of Torah Sages was expected to instruct its representatives in the Knesset to compromise on the issue of the military draft bill, in order to prevent the disbanding of the government. According to a party source, its MKs are expected to request minor changes in the law. He said that if the changes are not accepted they won’t leave the coalition but will make do with voting against the law.

At the meeting of the Yisrael Beitenu faction, Lieberman took a hawkish stance on Gaza. “Our goal vis-à-vis Hamas is to attain five years of peace and quiet in the south. The strategic goal of Hamas is to lift the siege, in other words to be able to freely bring in weapons from Iran, Iranian instructors, Hezbollah members and ammunition.

“The problem is not launching incendiary balloons or friction on the border fence, because they said they won’t end the violence unless we end the siege. That’s why I say, with all the pain and the risks – Gaza first. Even at the price that the conflict will expand into an overall confrontation. We need a cabinet decision, and despite the belligerence outside, inside the room they say different things.”