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Israeli Government In Jeopardy Of Collapsing Over Haredi Draft Exemption Bill

Israel’s governing coalition is teetering on the brink of collapse amid growing infighting over legislation that would exempt Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) students from military service. “Israel will be headed to the polls within the coming months,” the country’s Hadashot news predicted Saturday night, adding that the elections could be held as early as June; that is, nearly a year-and-a-half before their scheduled November 2019 date. The ultra-Orthodox coalition parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, have threatened to vote against the 2019 budget—which would effectively bring down the government—unless their so-called Basic Law, a quasi-constitutional bill, exempting from the military full-time Torah-studying Jews is passed. In turn, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon threatened to force elections by pulling his Kulanu party out of the coalition if the proposed budget is not brought to a vote in the next two weeks as planned. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also warned that he will remove his Yisrael Beytenu party from the government if the Haredi legislation is advanced. For his part, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asserted prior to leaving for the United States that, “we’re not going to early elections. There is no reason for this to happen and with goodwill it won’t.” The High Court of Justice in September struck down a law exempting ultra-Orthodox men engaged in religious study from military service on the grounds that it undermined the principle of equality. The court gave the government one year to legislate a new arrangement.

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