Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Israel’s Netanyahu loses key coalition partner
Kadima » The moderate party pulled out in a feud over attempts to reform the military draft.
First Published Jul 17 2012 02:21 pm • Last Updated Jul 17 2012 02:22 pm

Jerusalem • Israel plunged toward a political crisis Tuesday after the largest party in the government quit, leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in charge of a hard-line coalition opposed to most Mideast peace moves.

The moderate Kadima Party voted to pull out of the government in a feud over attempts to reform the country’s military draft. The move, just two months after Kadima joined the coalition, appeared to push the country closer to early elections, a scenario that would paralyze Mideast diplomacy for months.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Even if Netanyahu manages to hold the truncated coalition together, the sudden crisis has broader implications for Mideast peace, leaving him in charge of a narrow parliamentary majority dominated by religious and nationalist hard-liners who oppose concessions to the Palestinians.

Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz brought the party into the coalition to work with Netanyahu on ending a contentious, decades-old system that has granted draft exemptions to tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students. But with a court-ordered Aug. 1 deadline to revise the law, the sides were unable to forge a compromise.

"We made a real effort to push toward a new law that would change the balance of service," Mofaz, a former military chief of staff, told a news conference.

Mofaz said he tried to forge a "new social contract," but was presented with "red lines" that couldn’t be crossed. "We are going back with our heads held high to lead the nation in the opposition," he declared.

Kadima is the largest party in Israel’s parliament, winning one more seat than Netanyahu’s Likud Party in the last election, but it was left outside the government when Netanyahu set up his original hard-line team three years ago.

The draft exemptions have caused widespread resentment among Israel’s secular majority, who are required to perform two to three years of compulsory service. Ultra-Orthodox leaders have been equally adamant in their refusal to compromise, claiming their young men serve the nation through prayer and study.

Netanyahu had sought a system that would gradually draft growing numbers of ultra-Orthodox over several years, and continue the exemptions for a smaller number of them. Mofaz wanted fewer exemptions and for the ultra-religious to be incorporated much faster. The talks were been complicated by calls for Israel’s Arab minority, who are exempt from the draft, to be forced into civilian national service.

In a letter to Mofaz, Netanyahu expressed regret over Mofaz’s decision.

story continues below
story continues below

"I am sorry that you decided to give up the opportunity to bring about a historic change. After 64 years we were very close to a significant change in spreading the burden (of army service)," he said. "I will continue to work to bring a responsible solution that Israeli society expects."

It remained unclear what would happen after Aug. 1. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on that date he would begin drafting an unspecified number of ultra-religious soldiers and propose temporary legislation until a more permanent arrangement can be made in the coming months.

Netanyahu’s government, torn between religious and secular parties, was on the brink of collapse over the draft issue when Mofaz was lured into the government in an overnight deal in May. Those divisions are likely to hinder new attempts by Netanyahu to reform the draft.

Kadima’s addition gave Netanyahu a majority of 94 seats in the 120-member parliament, raising hopes that they would not only resolve the draft issue but also make progress on peace matters with the Palestinians.

Mofaz, a political moderate, favors broad concessions to the Palestinians and has proposed formation of an interim Palestinian state while final borders are negotiated.

With Mofaz’s departure, Netanyahu appears unlikely to float any bold proposals toward the Palestinians. During a visit this week by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Palestinian issue barely factored in discussions.

Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib refused to comment, calling the resignation an internal Israeli matter.

Mofaz came under heavy criticism from political moderates when he joined Netanyahu last May. His sudden change of mind Tuesday was certain to raise further doubts about his leadership skills, and could hurt Kadima’s political prospects down the road. Opinion polls have predicted the party would plunge to roughly 10 seats, about one-third its current level, if new elections were held.

"Political cooperation born in sin was destined to end," said former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni.

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.