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Election Rumor Mill: T’is The Season In Israel

In a déjà vu of a déjà vu moment, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu raised the specter of early elections unless the governing coalition reaches a compromise on legislation to draft ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Jews into the military. “If we don’t find a solution for the enlistment bill in two weeks, we’ll decide on a date for an election,” the premier was quoted as saying during a meeting of coalition party leaders. The on-again off-again saga over drafting Haredim into the army was revived last week when the High Court of Justice gave the government a three-month extension from its September deadline to pass a new law regulating the political hot potato. Parties in the ultra-Orthodox coalition have long opposed mandatory service for their constituents, many of whom engage in full-time religious study at the state’s expense. The more secular parties, meanwhile, along with much of the Israeli public, oppose the current arrangement, viewing it as inherently unfair. Israel’s top court agreed last year, striking down a law that offered mass exemptions from military or public service to ultra-orthodox teenagers. At the time, the government was given one year to draft a new bill to address the matter. Now, with the three-month extension expiring on December 2, many view this as the last possible date to call for an early vote. If so, elections would be held within 90 days. According to sources, Prime Minister Netanyahu would prefer to go to the polls in November 2019, when his current mandate expires, as this would ensure that he surpasses (in May) David Ben-Gurion’s record for longest-serving Israeli leader.