Netanyahu to meet Israel coalition heads for crisis talks
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 is determined to pass the law.
On Thursday, hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews blocked the main entrance to Jerusalem, bringing traffic to a grinding halt during the evening commute to protest the arrest of members of their community for refusing to register for the military draft.
Israel has compulsory military service for most Jewish men, but the ultra-Orthodox, whose political parties enjoy an outsized role in the country’s coalition politics, have secured exemptions. Most ultra-Orthodox men have the option of receiving repeated deferrals, as long as they register with the military.
But the protesters refuse to even register. “We will die and not enlist,” they chanted.
It was the first such protest since the death of the group’s leader, Shmuel Auerbach last month. On his orders over the past year, thousands of men in black hats and side-locks would mob intersections, stopping traffic and scuffling with the public and police.
The military exemptions have angered many secular and mainstream Jews, whose children are drafted after high school.
Meanwhile, 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 office, however, 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.
Netanyahu is not required to resign if indicted.
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