Netanyahu urges Liberman not to ditch coalition over military exemption bill


"I call on all the coalition partners, first and foremost Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, to remain in the government and to continue this partnership in order to guarantee security, prosperity and stability for the State of Israel", Netanyahu said at the start of his Likud party meeting.

While Pence's announcement echoed President Trump's declaration that he had re-certified the deal in January "for the last time", the president later set a deadline of May 12 for negotiations between the U.S. and the "European Three" (the UK, France and Germany) in hopes of securing a better deal, though Iranian leaders have adamantly declared that they won't accept any modifications to the original deal.

At a meeting on Sunday, influential rabbis reportedly chose to stick by the demand that a bill on the military exemption be approved before the budget is passed while rejecting compromise legislation that had been proposed. Rival parties have threatened to bolt the coalition over the issue, raising the possibility of early elections.

The bill in question is meant to grant a military exemption to Haredi (literally means "in awe of God", often called "ultra-Orthodox" in English but not without controversy) students attending a yeshiva (a traditional Jewish school for the study of the Torah and Talmud).

A bill pushed by religious parties but fiercely opposed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was given an initial okay by the Knesset late Tuesday, following a last-minute compromise deal that ended the worst coalition crisis since the current government was formed in mid-2015. "Freedom, innovation, informality", Netanyahu said. Then on Monday, a junior coalition partner, Yisrael Beitenu, said it would not support the compromise.

But polls are unreliable and it's, therefore, unlikely that they alone would have made Netanyahu decide to have early elections. Several Kulanu MKs have previously stated they would join Lieberman in opposing the bill. Recent opinion polls show public support for Netanyahu is still strong.

Lieberman, Yisrael Beteinu's leader, said that all five MKs [Members of the Knesset] from his party would vote against the revised bill.

The inability of Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu to coexist with the ultra-Orthodox, however, will remain a major obstacle to a far-right coalition surviving, unless such parties gain enough seats to push Lieberman into the opposition, or Netanyahu is able to court one of the centrist parties to replace the religious ones.

Netanyahu, 68, could soon face charges in at least two separate corruption affairs.

Israel's attorney general is expected to make a decision on an indictment by the fall.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a plenum session in the Israeli parliament, seen with Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on March 13, 2018.