Netanyahu: Decision on Elections Within Two Weeks

April 30, 2012  

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday that a decision on whether to hold early elections will be made by the end of the next week.

Netanyahu, whose father died at the age of 102 on Monday, will be restriciting his official appearances for the next week as he observes the traditional Jewish first week of mourning known as “shiva.”

Netanyahu told the Likud ministers during a morning meeting, saying the decision would follow after examining the “feasibility” of such a move.

The primary point of contention in the Likud-led coalition is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s insistence on immediately nullifying the Tal Law, which would abolish exemptions to IDF service received by Israel’s Hareidi community.

This morning, Netanyahu met in his office with Boaz loom, Eidan Miller, Joab Kish, Zohra Berger, and Yotam Berger who represent a movement among IDF reservists opposed to the Tal Law.

Netanyahu told them, “The division of the burden of service must be changed. It should not be as it is. This is our second meeting in recent months. I know there are a lot of opportunists who voted for the automatic extension of the Tal Law.”

“I do not like that,” he went on. “The Tal Law will be replaced by a more egalitarian and more just law. I will make it happen. The new law also will include national service for Arabs. This should be possible without the incitement of public figures.”

However, Netanyahu said, “Such a change will involve expanding frameworks [for religious soldiers in the IDF] and increasing the budget. This is a high priority and falls within the needs of state security.”

The Prime Minister said opponents of the renewal of the Tal Law have taken such a strong stance for immediate action that early elections are a distinct possibility.

Eidan Miller, who participated in the meeting with the Prime Minister, told Radio Kol Israel’s “All Talk”” radio show with Yossi Hadar that Netanyahu stressed the Knesset is committed to enacting a replacement for the Tal Law.

He added that Netanyahu also told them that one “ultra-Orthodox” party understood that such change in Israeli society has become “inevitable.”

Observers note that Netanyahu’s reference to “expanded frameworks” and “increased budget” closely echoes previous statements made by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, the head of the Sephardic Hareidi party Shas.

The ruling Likud party is currently polling stronger than its present 27 seats, while its former chief rival, Kadima, is polling well below its present 28 seats.

Such a move could spell disaster for Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whose Independence Party has yet to poll well enough to be seated in the next Knesset should elections be held today.

Analysts say the conflict over the Tal Law between Netanyahu and Lieberman may not necessarily preclude the Prime Minister from including Lieberman’s Yisrael Bateinu party – or Shas – in the next coalition.

A stronger Likud, they note, would be able to form a more ideologically homogeneous and stable coalition that could well exclude Hareidi parties opposed to the cancellation of the Tal Law. 

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