Lieberman's Demand for Joining Netanyahu Government: Draft the ultra-Orthodox

Yisrael Beiteinu chairman says he would recommend Netanyahu for prime minister, but 'we'll go to elections again' if haredi conscription law not brought to Knesset; ultra-Orthodox parties plan to unite against him

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Avigdor Lieberman at a Yisrael Beiteinu meeting and Passover toast, April 15, 2019.
Avigdor Lieberman at a Yisrael Beiteinu meeting and Passover toast, April 15, 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman said Monday that he would only join a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if the bill making military service mandatory for ultra-Orthodox men was passed by the Knesset.

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Lieberman said he would recommend Netanyahu form the next government to President Reuven Rivlin, but conditioned joining the coalition on the bill passing into law.

"If we will be in the presence of an alternative of giving up on the draft bill and remaining in the coalition or to be in the opposition, we'll go to election again," the former defense minister said

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"The ones who let the goats in are the ultra-Orthodox parties," Lieberman said, referring to a Jewish parable where a rabbi tells a poor man to crowd his house with animals and then let them out to change his perspective on his small home.

"We are doing our best to safeguard common sense and logic on the topic of religion and state as well. Whoever is not prepared [for that] will be responsible for the government not forming," he said.

He added, "The nation said its piece – the right won. Sadly, the ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox nationalist stream within the right grew to 21-22 seats and I see it as a threat."

Regarding the possibility of a unity government, Lieberman said, "it needs to be very clear – a unity government needs to be established around one particular issue. Just to establish a unity government, that will be a government of paralysis."

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, unlike the rest of the Jewish population in Israel, are not conscripted so long as they are studying in yeshiva. In 2018, Lieberman spearheaded a bill that would require yeshivas to meet a quota of students who draft or do national service.

Lieberman, whose party won five Knesset seats, spoke at Yisrael Beiteinu headquarters for the first time since the election. He is expected to meet with President Rivlin on Tuesday and give him his recommendation.

Shas and United Torah Judaism explained Sunday that they will not compromise in coalition contacts on what they define as core issues. Their chairmen recommended Netanyahu form a government on Monday.

The Yated Ne'eman daily newspaper, which is identified with the ultra-Orthodox Degel Hatorah - one of the parties under UTJ's umbrella - published a front-page headline Sunday reading "A United Front Against Lieberman."

Gafni, who heads Degel Hatorah, told the paper that if the ultra-Orthodox parties' demands are not met, "there will be no coalition."

According to Gafni, the central goals of the ultra-Orthodox parties in the next Knesset are legislating a new draft law, which will put off the draft of yeshiva students; safeguarding the independence of ultra-Orthodox education from Education Ministry supervision; continuing the fight against changing the status-quo for Shabbat; apartment allocations to ultra-Orthodox families; opposition to a shared prayer space at the Western Wall and pushing off former minister Moshe Nissim's reform of the conversion law.

Litzman, Gafni and Dery estimate that the main roadblock for achieving their demands is Lieberman, and are planning on creating a united front against him with members of the Union of Right-Wing Parties.

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