2019 budget poses existential threat to Netanyahu's government as allies fight
The voting of the 2019 budget through the Knesset is turning into a life or death test for the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as disagreement between coalition allies soars.
Speaking to Israeli television on Friday, Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon said he is ready to make the government fall if the new budget is not passed swiftly through the Knesset.
However, religious parties such as Interior minister Aryeh Deri's Shas and the more Ashkenazi leaning United Torah Judaism have threatened to boycott the budget if laws dear to them do not get full coalition support.
Any law proposed by a member of the coalition and disputed by the opposition needs the full backing of the coalition which holds 61 Knesset seats, that is just over half the total of 120 seats.
Religious parties threatened not to support the new budget if a new law on exemption from military service for the religious is not passed.
The new law on exemption pitted religious coalition partners like the ultra-orthodox United Torah Judaism and the more Sefardi-leaning Shas against secular-nationalists like Israeli Defense Minister and Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman.
Liberman said he would not support the law, and made fun of ultra-Orthodoxs who do not want to join the army on Twitter.
משנכנס אדר מתגייסים בשמחה. פורים שמח! pic.twitter.com/09tfV8qIsR— אביגדור ליברמן (@AvigdorLiberman) March 1, 2018
"There is only one thing that counts, namely the Israeli Defense Forces and the security of the citizens of the State of Israel,” Liberman said. “As a member of the coalition, Yisrael Beytenu is prepared to compromise on many issues, but not on this one,” he concluded.
Liberman's adamant opposition to the new law, coupled with the religious parties' threat to strike down the 2019 budget, put coalition king-maker Benjamin Netanyahu in a difficult position, caught in cross-fire between allies.
Kahlon's pledge to Israeli TV that he would bring the coalition down if the budget is not voted "within the next two weeks" complicates matters further.
Writing on Twitter, Kahlon insisted the budget is too important to be sacrificed to political game-playing.
“The 2019 budget: for IDF soldiers, children, the health system, Holocaust survivors, the disabled, employment, young couples, economic growth, a strong economy [and] the continued drop in housing prices. For this I will fight to the end,” he wrote.
תקציב 2019— משה כחלון (@KahlonMoshe) March 2, 2018
למען חיילי צה"ל
למען מערכת הבריאות
למען ניצולי השואה
למען הזוגות הצעירים
למען צמיחת המשק
למען כלכלה חזקה
למען המשך הירידה במחירי הדיור
על זה אלחם עד הסוף
Prime Minister Netanyahu is now trying to solve tensions in the coalition starting with the legislation on ultra-Orthodox exclusion from the army.
A new committee created by Netanyahu to iron about a deal on the issue will be composed of representatives of all coalition partners, will be headed by Likud Tourism minister Yariv Levin and will also include a representative of the Attorney General.
Moshe Gafni, an MK from "United Torah Judaism", threatened to take action against laws supported by Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu in Parliament, was he to oppose the new draft law as he promises.
“We won’t support your bizarre laws anymore,” he said.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has previously claimed that all young people should enlist in the army or national service.
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No exception to military service. Religious blackmail.