Netanyahu to meet Israel coalition chiefs for crisis talks


Coalition at loggerheads over legislation that would exempt young ultra-Orthodox men from military service

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (AFP)
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Last update: 
Sunday 11 March 2018 23:30 UTC

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to meet with Israel's ruling coalition heads, his office said on Saturday, to discuss a political crisis that could force early elections.

A meeting with leaders of two ultra-Orthodox parties was to be held later Saturday, to be followed the next day by talks with the other members of his coalition.

The coalition is currently at loggerheads over legislation that would exempt young ultra-Orthodox men from military service. 

The ultra-Orthodox parties are refusing to approve the state budget unless a draft bill is amended or scrapped, while Defence Minister Avidgor Lieberman seems determined to pass the law.

Netanyahu plans to push his partners to commit to staying in the coalition for a full term, until 2019, even as Liberman showed no signs of backing down on Saturday night, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Netanyahu himself, who returned on Friday from a trip to the United States, could soon face charges in at least two separate corruption affairs.

Critics accuse Netanyahu of allowing a political crisis to brew to trigger early elections and give him more time in power if the attorney general decides to press charges.

Netanyahu’s spokesman denied reports that the prime minister and Liberman were working together to bring down the government and hold an election in June, the Jerusalem Post said.

Netanyahu's office said he "prefers to continue the government’s work until the end of its term in November 2019, which necessitates the agreement of coalition members".

In the graft probes, over which police have recommended his indictment, Netanyahu allegedly granted financial or other benefits to businessmen in return for gifts or favours.

The prime minister is not required to resign if indicted.