Netanyahu meets with Litzman
Netanyahu meets with Litzman Abir Sultan/Flash90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sat down with Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) Sunday evening in a bid to reach a compromise with haredi lawmakers over proposed legislation on draft deferments for yeshiva students.

The coalition crisis, which first began last month, deteriorated last week during the Prime Minister’s trip abroad, as haredi lawmakers faced-off against Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), who has refused to support a draft bill pushed by UTJ and Shas, calling haredi demands “extortion” by “extremist elements” he said had ‘taken Israel captive’.

Haredi MKs have demanded that the Likud-led coalition government pass a bill drafted by Shas MK Yoav Ben-Tzur which would protect draft deferments for yeshiva students from future rulings by the Supreme Court. The UTJ party has threatened to block passage of the 2019 budget if the demand is not met. Failure to pass the budget would likely result in snap elections – the third time in five years Israeli voters have gone to the polls.

Likud leaders have floated possible compromise arrangements to satisfy haredi lawmakers without isolating Yisrael Beytenu, and enabling the government to pass the 2019 budget plan.

One such proposal would include passage of the haredi-backed draft bill in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Monday, essentially guaranteeing full government support for the bill. The draft bill would then be brought up in the full Knesset for an initial vote on Wednesday, while the 2019 budget bill would be passed, guaranteeing the coalition’s continued operation.

On Sunday, however, the Council of Torah Sages of the Agudat Yisrael faction of the UTJ party rejected the offer, instructing its MKs to vote against the budget until the draft bill has been passed into law.

Following the council’s rejection, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Yaakov Litzman Sunday evening with the hopes of achieving a breakthrough that could prevent the coalition’s breakup.

Netanyahu met with leaders of both Shas and UTJ Saturday night, but was unable to reach an accord.

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