Avigdor Liberman demands passage of draft law that collapsed coalition negotiations


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman reiterated his demand for the passage of a haredi Orthodox draft bill on Wednesday.

His insistence on the measure several months ago had caused coalition negotiations to collapse, forcing new elections now scheduled for Sept. 17.

The draft law obligates haredi Orthodox men to participate in Israel’s mandatory military draft. Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, parties wanted to soften the text of the law, but Liberman insisted he would not join the government unless the law was passed in its current form.

“We didn’t give up on the enlistment law, not before the April elections, not during the campaign and not after the elections,” The Times of Israel reported Liberman as saying on Wednesday. “We didn’t join the government because we refused to give up a single comma or letter in the law, and we won’t give up an inch in the law after Sept. 17 either.”

Since his decision to scuttle coalition talks, Liberman’s hand has only strengthened. Although his right-wing party won only five seats in the 120-seat Knesset in April’s vote, it was enough to deny Netanyahu the 61-seat majority he needed to form a government.

The latest polls show Liberman doubling that showing and entering the Knesset with 10 mandates, even as the balance between the left and right-wing blocs remains relatively stable.

Liberman has said that Yisrael Beiteinu will only support a candidate for prime minister who is willing to push for a national unity government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party and the centrist Blue and White coalition.

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