Thursday, 26 April, 2018

Israeli ministers favor bill to exempt ultra-Orthodox from military service

GALI TIBBON Israeli ministers favor bill to exempt ultra-Orthodox from military service
Patty Aguilar | 13 March, 2018, 23:06

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged his coalition partners not to pull out of the government over a contested bill exempting Jewish ultra-Orthodox students from military service.

According to the agreed deal, the conscription bill will now be frozen until the Knesset returns from its recess in mid-April, when a government bill drafted by the Defense Ministry will be proposed and merged with the Ben Tzur bill, taking the army's personnel needs into account as the Knesset takes up once again the question of ultra-Orthodox draft exemptions. But looming over Netanyahu's speech was a mountain of corruption scandals. "The hour is late, but not too late", Netanyahu told a stormy parliamentary session.

In order to make us believe that the consideration about his personal future isn't on his mind at all, he may have got Lieberman to be the bad boy for which he'd be amply rewarded.

Military service for ultra-Orthodox men is one of the most fraught topics in Israel and looked to undermine Netanyahu's coalition government, which has 66 out of the 120 lawmakers.

Israel's prime minister held emergency negotiations with key coalition partners on Sunday in hopes of averting a crisis that has threatened to plunge the country into early elections.

A compromise in the works would at least postpone the crisis, if not outright resolve it. Talks between the sides were to continue in the coming days. That has infuriated Israel's secular majority, and previous attempts at compromise have been struck down by the Supreme Court. Netanyahu took much of the fire.

The police has already recommended indicting Netanyahu in two bribery cases, but the final decision on indictment must be made by the attorney general. "But we're not there yet", Netanyahu said later on Monday.

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In one case, Netanyahu and his family are accused of accepting expensive gifts from wealthy supporters in exchange for financial benefits or favours.

The other alleges he sought a secret deal with the publisher of a top-selling newspaper for favorable coverage.

Since then, police have opened a separate investigation into suspicions that Netanyahu, as communications minister, pushed regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel's national telecom company Bezeq. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a witch hunt.

Netanyahu's legal woes are the focus of the coalition crisis, with a range of politicians accusing him of allowing it to worsen to give him the option of forcing early polls. "I do not know of anyone who would volunteer to leave the job".

A number of votes must occur before the end of the week to greatly lessen the chances of early elections.

Recent opinion polls show the long-time leader still enjoys strong public support and his Likud party could win the most seats in new elections, despite the corruption allegations.

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