JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a public statement called on Avigdor Liberman to join the government coalition and prevent the country from heading to new national elections.
Netanyahu also promised that he would do everything possible to avoid going to new elections less than six months after the last ones.
Netanyahu has until Wednesday to form a majority ruling government coalition, but has been stymied in his efforts in large part over the military draft law. The haredi Orthodox parties want changes to the law that would allow more leniency in drafting yeshiva students, while Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, insists he will not join the government unless the legislation’s restrictive language remains intact.
Netanyahu has not yet signed a coalition agreement with any party, as each waits to see what kind of deal the others will sign.
Netanyahu met Monday night with Liberman in a meeting which lasted 22 minutes during which Netanyahu called on Liberman to accept a compromise on the draft law. Liberman insists that the compromise favors the haredi parties, and said earlier on Monday that he would not “be partners in a halachic government.”
“A month and a half ago the people voted in favour of a right-wing government headed by me,” Netanyahu said in a statement Monday evening in the Knesset. “I’m making all efforts to prevent unnecessary and wasteful elections that will cost billions of shekels. There’s no reason to do so and paralyze the country for another half a year. There are excellent solutions, and if there’s a will, it (the crisis over the draft law) can be solved within two minutes.”
The Knesset on Monday evening passed in a preliminary reading a bill that would disperse the Knesset, sending the country to new national elections, tentatively set for August 27. The vote was 65 votes in favour and 43 against. It could have its first reading as early as late Monday night or Tuesday. The final votes would be held on Wednesday evening, the last time for Netanyahu to form a government coalition.
Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz, the leader of the opposition, on Monday said he should be given a chance to form a government before the country goes to new elections. His party voted against the bill to dissolve the Knesset, which would prevent President Reuven Rivlin from turning to him to form a government if Netanyahu fails.