The crisis that erupted over the last fortnight was intensified when the United Torah Judaism party (UTJ) threatened last week not to support the 2019 state budget unless an IDF conscription bill, which would solicit state recognition of Torah studies to being equal to military service, is brought for a vote and passed in the Knesset first.
“Netanyahu’s aim right now is for the government to complete its term,” an official close to the prime minister told Ynet as the prime minister continues his five-day trip to Washington. “There is no point in the government dismantling in May. Therefore, without an agreement that ensures the government's continued life span, there is no choice but to go to elections.”
Thrusting his Kulanu party into a tighter dealock with his Haredi coalition partners, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon stressed on Tuesday that he does not intend to compromise on the 2019 budget, warning that "the people of Israel will sit down to celebrate Seder night with a budget or without a finance minister."
According to the official, the prime minister was prepared to present two possible options. “The first option is an agreement that will ensure that the government’s days are completed and the second one is to go to elections. A third option is not a question,” the official said.
As the impasse continues, officials in the Haredi factions and the ruling Likud party have said that without Netanyahu’s direct intervention, the gaping differences in opinions will not be able to be bridged.
So far however, the prime minister, buffered from the immediate rancor by his diplomatic visit to the US, has taken a step back in the hope that the coalition partners will be able to reconcile their differences without his prodding.
UJT accepted the decision last Wednesday by the Council of Torah Sages demanding that the bill be passed and made a condition for support of the state budget.
The Council of Torah Sages first exhorted the party a few days ago to make their support dependent on the amendment to the draft law, but UTJ attempted to clarify at the time that this was not an explicit demand that if not followed would result in yet another coalition crisis.
“As things look at the moment, the possibility of dissolving the Knesser and the calling of elections is real,” said one official.
With elections now possibly in the offing, the repeated threats made by the Haredi parties will now be put to the test, as the Council of Torah Sages convenes on Wednesday in an effort to descend the tree it urged the ultra-Orthodox factions to climb.
Haredi factions believe that if a compromise can be reached on the draft law, three members of the Knesset affiliated with the ultra-Orthodox Agudat Yisrael party—Moshe Gafni, Uri Maklev and Ya'akov Asher—are likely to accept it regardless of the position of Litzman—a trustee of the Admor of Gur Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter and head of Agudat Yisrael—who is likely to make a different decision.
Meanwhile, a consultation between Litzman and his rabbis has not yet been scheduled.
Litzman’s close circle emphasized again on Tuesday evening that “he doesn’t want elections , but he isn’t afraid of them if the draft law is not amended before the budget is approved, as was instructed by the Council of Torah Sages.”
Sources close to Litzman say that he believes that Netanyahu is interested in elections due to fact that he is not exerting sufficient efforts to concluding the crisis and that the Likud is not presenting an outline for a solution.
Moreover, Litman stressed that “if the prime minister had wanted, he would have done more.”