Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed Tuesday he does not wish to call early elections and will work to resolve the crisis in the coalition over the IDF draft law.
During a press conference to announce the appointment of Prof. Amir Yaron as the new Bank of Israel governor, Netanyahu surprised journalists by agreeing to take questions—something he rarely does.
When asked about the crisis with the ultra-Orthodox parties over the IDF draft law, Netanyahu said his government is "making an effort to resolve the draft issue and other issues, and this effort will continue. If we find a way, we'd be happy to continue (with this government) until the end of the year. If not, we would have to call early elections."
"The elections are set for November, and we want to have it on time... we're thinking of how to do that without hurting stability," he added.
Earlier, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri told Ynet that he believes early elections are all but guaranteed, estimating Israelis will likely go to the polls in March 2019.
"Everyone knows the matter can be resolved," Deri said. However, it "will not be resolved without effort, and no one is making such an effort. That is why the legislation won't pass."
The existing Israeli Defense Service Law expires on December 2, 2018, after the High Court of Justice deemed it unconstitutional, meaning that the Knesset is obliged to pass an alternative law before then.
Last year, the HCJ made a majority ruling canceling an amendment to the Israeli Defense Service Law ratified by the Knesset almost two years prior, which lowered the annual quota on the number of Haredim required to draft into the IDF.
The new proposed legislation includes planned cuts to the yeshivot's budgets and the use of economic incentives to pressure the Torah study institutions to encourage enlistment, but no criminal sanctions.
The enlistment objectives, as stated in the proposal, are that 3,000 yeshiva students will be drafted in the first stage and 600 will volunteer for national service. The plan will be given a two-year adaptation period, in which sanctions won’t be imposed if the yeshivot fail to meet the draft quotas. In the third year, yeshivot who fail to encourage enlistment will be hit with economic sanctions if they drop below a 95-percent target.
The ultra-Orthodox factions in the government coalition vehemently oppose the proposed bill, with Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman announcing that he would resign from the government if the law was approved.
During the press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu was also asked about the rising tensions on the Gaza border. "We're trying to bring a solution that would restore the quiet and security to the Gaza border communities," the prime minister said.
"We're working from time to time with great decisiveness. Because of our operations, there's caution on the Palestinian side, and I think they too understand that a conflict will exact a big price from the Palestinian side," Netanyahu added.
"On the other hand, they're suffocating. Why? Because (Palestinian President) Abbas is suffocating them economically, and then they lash out at Israel," he explained. "We won't tolerate this situation, and they know this, and that is why there are attempts to reach a practical solution that would stop this suffocation."
He also stressed that "I am not eager to launch needless wars."
When asked about the corruption investigations against him, Netanyahu said he doesn't believe an indictment will be filed against him, and so he will not have to seek immunity.