Netanyahu still struggling to sway Liberman as coalition deadline looms
Yisrael Beytenu leader calls prime minister’s compromise, which would dilute draft law for Haredi men, 'a game'; special committee approves bill to disperse Knesset, will be voted on second and third times Wednesday; Kahlon's Kulanu party unites with Likud despite vow to remain independent
With a little over 24 hours left before the deadline to present a new coalition, no agreements had been reached by Tuesday night between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman. Netanyahu is seeking to bring the five-MK party into his new coalition.
The Wednesday deadline to present a coalition follows a 14-day extension that Netanyahu was granted by President Reuven Rivlin. The prime minister has not been able to reach an agreement with his other prospective partners in order to create a coalition of at least 61 lawmakers.
At the heart of the dispute with Liberman is the law to draft ultra-Orthodox men into the army, which the religious parties oppose, and the Yisrael Beytenu leader insists on passing.
Netanyahu said Tuesday he had proposed a compromise about the law that allows Haredi draft quotas would be negotiated after legislation passed. The prime minister said the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party had party agreed to the compromise, but Liberman dismissed it as "a game,” saying "there is no compromise on the table."
"We are sticking with our original offer, and that's for UTJ MKs to be absent from the vote on the draft law," Liberman said, demanding that the law remained in its current form and phrasing.
Earlier Tuesday, a spokesperson for Likud, Yonatan Orich, said that his party had not met with Liberman all day and that no meeting was planned, despite the Wednesday deadline, since Liberman had refused to meet with them.
"Liberman refuses every offer and tries to buy time," said Orich.
Also Tuesday, Netanyahu and Kulanu Party leader Moshe Kahlon agreed to unite their parties ahead of a possible vote on new elections.
Kahlon, the outgoing finance minister, and his party that split from Likud in 2014 and vowed to remain independent, was allocated five seats on the Likud's list for the next Knesset.
If the Knesset doesn't approve new elections, the president could assign another MK, either from the Likud or another party, with the task of forming a government. However, that scenario is unlikely.
On Tuesday evening, a special committee approved the bill to dismiss the Knesset, in case an agreement isn't reached between Netanyahu and coalition partners before the Wednesday deadline; the bill is yet to be voted on twice in the Knesset before it is approved and new elections are set.
If elections are indeed approved, the expected date is September 17, just five months after the April 9 elections, and the cost is estimated to be NIS 574 million.