Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman informed his cabinet colleagues that “if they want the coalition to continue,” they must support a conscription bill that would legalize exemptions from military service for yeshiva students, as well as a Basic Law that would declare Torah study a higher value than equality and thereby prevent the High Court of Justice from overturning the conscription bill. But ministers Moshe Kahlon and Avigdor Lieberman made it clear that they are unwilling to compromise on this issue, even at the price of the government’s collapse.
None of this prevented Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked from terming the conscription crisis a “fake crisis.” Both Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s accusation that members of the governing coalition are to blame for the crisis because they lack “goodwill.” According to Bennett and Shaked, the person who lacks any desire to solve the crisis is Netanyahu, who could solve it “in 10 minutes.”
This crisis is further proof that the government isn’t functioning properly under the cloud of the police investigations against Netanyahu. A question hovers over every move and every crisis as to the real reasons for them. Over every decision fear hovers that it was made — as Netanyahu said of then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008 — “based on his personal interest in his own political survival rather than the national interest.”
Instead of holding a substantive discussion on the question of conscription into the army, which goes to the heart of Israeli society, the public sphere has been abandoned to Netanyahu’s cost-benefit calculations: Would it pay for him to call early elections in June, before the attorney general decides whether to indict him in Cases 1000 and 2000, or would it be better to wait until after the police issue their recommendations in Cases 3000 and 4000? Instead of asking what’s good for Israel, the public is preoccupied with the question of what’s good for Netanyahu.
Shaked is wrong. The conscription crisis isn’t a fake crisis, but a real one that affects every 18-year-old, and every mother and father. But any solution to it that would boil down to a shady political trick under the cloud of the investigations would indeed be fake. A government that keeps silent when the prime minister declares war on state agencies, and whose members have often hastened to follow suit when he slandered the judicial system, the police and the media, hurling false and ridiculous accusations about attempted coups, doesn’t deserve the public’s trust. It itself is the fake against which the public must rise up.
Netanyahu should take a time-out from running the affairs of state to clear his good name, both publicly and legally. Until then, he doesn’t deserve the public’s trust. His continued tenure in office corrupts his environment and stains his colleagues in the Likud party and the cabinet. The conscription crisis is a good opportunity for a bad government to fire itself.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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