Netanyahu Evading Kerry Plan; Lapid to Bring Down Coalition

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in order to avoid a split in his Likud party has promised that he will back the far right and not split off the centrist members as Sharon did to form Kadima and withdraw from Gaza.

He has also promised that he will not table the Kerry plan in the coalition in order to remain faithful to his traditional backers; the far right extremist Settler Movement parties.  Instead Netanyahu will continue to delay any possible agreement on any possible plan by Kerry until after the April 29th deadline.

US Secretary of State John Kerry revealed new details about the secretive Israeli-Palestinian Authority (PA) peace talks he is pushing through. According to Kerry, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opposes the idea that NATO forces will secure Israel’s borders in the event of a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.

Netanyahu has chosen to play the “talk talk and delay game” to avoid a coalition crisis over the Kerry plan; however the coalition is in a grave crisis with the centrist Yesh Atid party of Lapid, which is  ready to bolt the coalition with its 19 MKs.

The new Hareidi national service law is to be presented for second reading in committee on Monday and its final third reading [in committee] at the end of the week, it will then be scheduled to be presented to the full Knesset on March 10; without the punishment for evaders demanded by Yesh Atid. 

The ultra orthodox hareidi do not believe that a state of Israel should be established before it is established by Messiah, and mostly refuse to serve in the army or in national service. 

In spite of this, due to having the swing parties in most coalitions for the past 47 years, they have managed to get the state to finance their schools and students who commit to study Talmud for their lifetimes.

This state subsidy of people unwilling to serve in the community or the military and for the most part will not contribute in the word force, is now coming to an end. 

The haredi are fighting furiously for their privileges and have influenced the crafting the new law so as to avoid any penalties for those who refuse to show up for service, making the National Service law toothless.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid spoke Saturday night about the new hareidi enlistment law which will be brought before the Knesset in the coming weeks. Lapid threatened that his Yesh Atid party will leave the coalition government if “criminal sanctions” on hareidi draft-dodgers are not included.

Last Thursday saw intense protests of thousands of hareidim in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and Ashdod, which were sparked by Lapid’s decision to retroactively cut funding for all yeshivas following a Supreme Court decision. The decision called on the government to annul funds for yeshivas with students whose draft was postponed by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon until the new law arranged their enlistment.

In response to the protests, Lapid quipped “we weren’t surprised by the size of the protests. We knew that we are approaching a social revolution and that it will be difficult, therefore everyone in the past was afraid to deal with it. We aren’t afraid, it’s an open wound in the heart of the country, and we will pass the Equal Burden Law.”

“It will be a painful period. When you have a revolution you need to take into account that there will be threats and anger. You need to be patient and firm for a larger principle,” pontificated Lapid.

Lapid claimed that the new law has majority support, even while warning “if there won’t be criminal sanctions we’ll leave the government.” Lapid asked for the sanctions not to be called as such, saying “there’s a Security Service Law (compelling enlistment) that needs to be applied to everyone, and will be applied to everyone.”

The new law is expected to pass without the Lapid demands that penalties for failure to comply be included.  That means that Yesh Atid’s 19 MKs and probably Hatnua’s 4 MKs will leave the coalition, bringing down the government and setting off an election campaign between far right and peace oriented coalitions.

Will the coalition break up be after Feb 16 when the bill is finalized in committee, or later when it is adopted in the Knesset?



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