It’s been nearly a month since the Israeli elections handed power once again–albeit less decisively–to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s the less decisively bit that matters most here because without a mandate, the consequences of the post-election political horse-trading and coalition jockeying has only grown more intense and more important.
One issue in particular that seems to be dominating the conversation is the much contested matter of conscription of ultra-Orthdox Israelis into mandatory army service. Over the weekend, it was reported that United Torah Judaism–which, as the name might suggest, is not favor of conscription–is looking for ways to bend on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to make the party (which won seven seats last month) more attractive as other groups, the The Jewish Home, push for conscription.
A UTJ official told the Post that the party was considering supporting a raft of measures such as a settlement freeze, the evacuation of unauthorized settlement outposts and the reopening of peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Such a move, he said, would allow the prime minister to form a coalition with left leaning parties including The Tzipi Livni Party and even Meretz, and leave Bayit Yehudi outside of the government.
With President Barack Obama visiting the region next month, there is some measure of pressure on Netanyahu to pay closer attention to the peace process. But will it be enough to sway Netanyahu from building a coalition with Naftali Bennett/The Jewish Home?
A complicating factor has been an alliance between Bennett and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, both of whom stand firmly in favor of the idea of mandatory service for Israel’s Haredim. The parties combined hold much more clout than UTJ and would leave Netanyahu in search of a coalition made up of a consortium of religious and left-leaning parties. Knowing this, Bennett and Lapid are holding steady.
Coalition talks have reached a standoff with Jewish Home and Yesh Atid forming an alliance pledging to either both join the government together or both serve in the opposition. The two parties are demanding a commitment to legislate for universal national service, including the ultra-Orthodox communities. However, Netanyahu is straining to keep the ultra-Orthodox parties, his natural coalition partners, in the government — despite their vehement opposition to the national draft.
According to Likud sources quoted by Maariv on Monday, Netanyahu would rather go to a second round of elections than give in to the Lapid-Bennett demands.
So who’s ready for another round of elections? Probably nobody.