Tensions Mount as Litzman Threatens Coalition’s Stability
A brewing coalition crisis appeared to deepen Sunday morning, when United Torah Judaism head Yaakov Litzman threatened to vote against the budget if the government failed to pass a law that would exempt ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from military service.
“If the draft law passes, there will be a budget, and if not, we will vote against the budget,” Litzman said in an interview with Army Radio on Sunday morning.
Litzman said that the draft exemption was a cornerstone of the coalition agreement and that as a representative of Moezet Gdolei Hatorah – the supreme rabbinical policy-making council that dictates the UTJ party line – he had no choice but to make sure it was implemented. “I am an MK on their behalf, I have to [follow their orders] down to the last comma,” Litzman said.
The deputy health minister however appeared to leave a door open for an end to the crisis when he said: On Wednesday, we held a meeting into the night with the prime minister, but couldn’t find a solution. We submitted a draft law that the Likud didn’t like, so the Likud should offer us an alternative.”
Challenged as to his lack of political options given that UTJ has publicly declared it would never form a coalition with the centrist Yesh Atid Party due to its championing of equal draft initiatives since its appearance on the political scene in 2013, Litzman responded: “And what about [Avi] Gabai? Maybe there will be other constellations.”
Responding to the Ultra-Orthodox threats, Kulanu Party leader and Treasury Minister Moshe Kahlon said Saturday that if the budget is not passed, that his party would dismantle the coalition.
Just before leaving for the United States Sunday morning, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented on the budding coalition crisis. Speaking about the possibility the coalition could collapse, Netanyahu said: “There is no reason for that to happen, and with goodwill, it will not happen. I have goodwill, I hope my [coalition] partners do as well.”
Yesh Atid Chairman MK Yair Lapid also commented on the coalition tensions Sunday, saying that: “The Ultra-Orthodox MKs are taking advantage of Netanyahu’s weakness due to his investigations, and are using it to stomp down the secular, religious and traditional public in Israel.
“The [Draft] law is an insult to IDF soldiers, an insult to the State of Israel, and an insult to Israel’s Torah. No where in the Torah is it stated that you are allowed to send others to be killed for you.”