With just hours to go before he runs out of time to form a coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday lambasted Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman for his insistence on passing an unchanged bill on drafting ultra-Orthodox men as a condition for joining the new government.
Meanwhile, the Knesset began discussions Wednesday noon on a bill to dissolve parliament and head to a second round of national elections this year, should Netanyahu be unable to finalize his coalition by midnight Wednesday.
"I don't understand Liberman's mindset," Netanyahu said, "it seems that he has decided to remain outside of government and to drag us all into elections."
Liberman, who has been a frequent coalition partner during Netanyahu's decade-long stint as prime minister, has refused to join the coalition without assurances that the bill is presented to the Knesset plenum without changes.
The demand by Liberman puts him at odds with the prime minister's other potential coalition partners, the ultra-Orthodox parties, which insist that the recruitment targets within the bill are watered down. Liberman has said that they should absent themselves from the Knesset plenum when the vote is cast, which they have rejected.
A compromise by Netanyahu;s Likud party for the government to set draft targets after the bill has passed was also rejected by Liberman.
The prime minister has until midnight to find a solution to the impasse, which currently leaves him with just 60 MKs from the 120-strong Knesset in his government.
Netanyahu has indicated that he would rather take the country into a new vote than cede the task of forming the next government to a rival either within his own right-wing bloc or opposition leader Benny Gantz.
Political sources said Netanyahu was seeking agreement with the leaders of parties in the legislature for a mid-September Election Day.
Lawmakers from Netanyahu's Likud and Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu traded verbal blows Wednesday morning as the Knesset geared up to vote to dissolve itself barely a month after it was sworn in.
Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer blamed the ultra-Orthodox for the impasse, saying their refusal to consider military service was "a finger in the eye" of Israelis who do perform national service.
"We are not asking them to vote for the law," Forer told Ynet. "A right-wing government is not a government of capitulation to the Haredi faction."
Likud minister Ze'ev Elkin, however, lashed out at Liberman, accusing the Yisrael Beytenu leader of intransigence and telling Ynet that he has shown no signs of compromise in the dispute over the Haredi draft bill.
"Liberman comes with an attitude of 'give me 100 percent (of what I ask) or there will be elections.' Any reasonable person realizes that this will lead to elections," Elkin said.
"So far, Liberman is blocking the establishment of a right-wing government and is in fact obstructing it," he said. "He is giving no indication that he is looking for a solution (to the crisis)."
With the prospect of elections looming, opposition lawmaker Stav Shaffir of Labor said Wednesday that she was trying to halt the plan for a fresh ballot, calling it an illegal move.
Shaffir told Ynet that she had appealed to the Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon in a bid to stop the second and third votes on the bill to dissolve the Knesset.
"The head of the executive branch, a person suspected of bribery, is trying to force the Knesset to disperse in contravention of the law and against the will of the voters," Shaffir said, referring to Netanyahu's three corruption investigations.
She said that if Netanyahu were unable to form a government by midnight, President Reuven Rivlin should task Blue and White leader Benny Gantz with putting together the next coalition.
First published: 13:12 , 05.29.19