Israel’s Unity Government In Shambles?
Kadima is leaving Benjamin Netenyahu’s Likud-led coalition government over the disputed Tal Law (universal draft law). The unity government had 94 of 120 seats, but Kadima’s defection would still give Netenyahu a 69 seat majority. That’s more than enough to continue functioning, but could limit Netenyahu if he seeks to overhaul the national service/military service requirements.
The broad coalition, which had given Mr. Netanyahu a supermajority of 94 of the Parliament’s 120 members and led Time Magazine to dub him ‘King of Israel,’ has been in turmoil for weeks over the issue of how to draft more ultra-Orthodox Jews as well as Arab citizens into either the military or civilian service.
Israel’s Supreme Court in February invalidated a law granting draft exemptions to thousands of yeshiva students, and Mr. Mofaz and Mr. Netanyahu said that rewriting the law to ensure that all citizens share the burden was a top priority when they formed their surprise partnership in early May.
That deal, inked at 2 a.m., stunned Israel’s political establishment and staved off early elections, which Mr. Netanyahu had announced only the night before. Now, even though Mr. Netanyahu retains a majority in Parliament and could theoretically continue with his previous coalition, most analysts here expect elections to be scheduled in January rather than at the end of the prime minister’s term in October, 2013.
While Mr. Mofaz’s Kadima Party had drafted legislation that would have required 80 percent of ultra-Orthodox men to enlist within four years, many in Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud faction, as well as the religious parties with which it has long been aligned, insisted that was moving too fast. Another key coalition partner, Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, had made requiring Israel’s Arab citizens to do some kind of community service a priority, which also irked Kadima.
Mr. Netanyahu remains extremely popular in Israel, and most here see his re-election as all but assured. The key question is what will become of Kadima, a centrist party that broke away from the Likud in 2005, and has recently lost traction in public polls.
Netenyahu had offered a compromise on the Tal Law, which would have allowed 50% of Orthodox (haredim) to be drafted by the IDF between ages of 18-23 and 50% would be drafted into national service between 23-26. Kadima rejected this because he claimed that the Israeli Supreme Court would have struck down the proposal on grounds that there wasn’t an equal sharing of the burden of military service, it was not proportional and doesn’t ultimately resolve the issue. Kadima also indicated that it didn’t include all draftable persons (likely referring to Israeli Arabs) and therefore only maintains the current unmanageable status quo.
The Israeli Supreme Court had required an alternative to the Tal Law be passed by the end of the month. An alternative proposal, requiring all 18 year olds to serve will be voted upon, but is expected to be voted down along party lines.
It strikes me as bad politics for Kadima to walk out of the coalition government; they don’t gain anything by doing so. If this was brinksmanship to force more concessions, it hasn’t worked and Netenyahu’s coalition still has the numbers to govern.