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Netanyahu explores early Israeli elections
Shas officials said Sunday they are not afraid of new elections over the issue.
“It is delusional to think you can impose such a drastic and substantial social maneuver on an entire segment of the population,” said Nissim Zeev, a Shas lawmaker.
Yisrael Beitenu’s leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, threatened this weekend to bring down the government if a compromise isn’t found. He said he would submit on May 9 a proposal for no more than 1,000 exemplary religious scholars to be granted exemptions.
“Our commitment to the coalition has ended. Now we have a commitment to the voter,” Mr. Lieberman said Sunday.
Mr. Netanyahu met Sunday with a group of army reservists and promised the existing law would be replaced by a more “just and egalitarian law that would more fairly divide the burden among all Israeli citizens.”
In another complication, it is expected that new legislation also would seek to impose civilian national service on Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens. That would almost surely antagonize the Arab sector, on which Israel’s dovish opposition depends for any chance of a majority. Their current exemption is a double-edged sword, reflecting de facto segregation and a state reluctant to test their loyalty.
A poll published Sunday indicated Mr. Netanyahu remains on course for re-election — predicting his Likud party would win 31 seats, up from its current 27, making it the largest faction in the 120-seat parliament. Parties supporting him would retain their overall majority. The poll, conducted last week by the New Wave Research Polling Institute, questioned 500 people and had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.
An election could yield a different Israel even if Mr. Netanyahu wins, however, since it is widely believed that Mr. Mofaz and other opposition figures would join him in a centrist coalition, freeing him of the grip of nationalist and religious parties.
An extended election campaign would cast new uncertainty on the country’s two most pressing foreign policy matters: peacemaking with the Palestinians and Israel’s claims that time is running out for military action against Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
Mr. Diskin became the latest in a series of figures from the security establishment to express concern about Mr. Netanyahu, and similar sentiments are often voiced in academic, business and judicial circles.
“All the heads of the security establishment, including current ones, oppose (Mr. Netanyahu‘s) policy,” said Channel 10 analyst Emanuel Rosen, predicting the issue could affect the election campaign in a country that still lionizes military figures.
In comments posted on YouTube, Mr. Diskin said he had “no faith” in Israel’s leadership. He accused the government of exaggerating the effectiveness of a possible military attack on Iran and not actively pursuing peace with the Palestinians.
Mr. Netanyahu is unlikely to offer any bold concessions in an election campaign. With the United States, the main Mideast mediator, focused on its own election, continued deadlock appears likely through the end of the year.
It remains unclear what effect elections would have on the Iran issue. It is unclear how much damage Israel could do to Iran’s fortified nuclear facilities, and such an attack would invite retaliation and anger from the U.S. and other key allies who are seeking a diplomatic solution with Tehran.
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