Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departs the White House after meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington, US March 5, 2018. .
(photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted on Monday that the coalition crisis revolving around the haredi conscription issue could bring down the current government.
Netanyahu, at a briefing with reporters after meeting US President Donald Trump, said “I want to come to an agreement that will enable the government to fulfill its term until November 2019, but at the present time I can't say that this goal is achievable.”
Netanyahu said that both he, and even more so his chief of staff Yoav Horowitz, have been dealing with the crisis since arriving in the US on Sunday, and have had frequent conversations with United Torah Judaism head Yaakov Litzman, as well as other coalition partners.
Netanyahu dismissed the notion that he is interested in a coalition crisis in order to give him a reason to call early elections before the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit makes a decision to indict him on any of the various investigations underway.
“This is simply not true,” he said. “We are trying to solve it [the coalition crisis]. If there is good will, we will solve it; if not, we won't. I have good will.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said he would remove his Yisrael Beytenu faction from Netanyahu’s coalition if United Torah Judaism leader Ya’acov Litzman gets his way and a bill facilitating Haredim avoiding army service passes into law by next week.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon revealed to his Kulanu faction at the Knesset that Netanyahu and his closest advisers also have called him repeatedly, taking an active role in resolving the dispute. He said he told them the 2019 state budget must pass immediately or he will leave his job.
Netanyahu spoke to Liberman, coalition chairman David Amsalem and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin in a conference call from Washington on Monday and urged them to take action to resolve the crisis.
In the meeting with Trump, the US president said he might travel to Israel for the opening of the US embassy in May.
"I may. I may," Trump said. "We're going to have it built very quickly." "We're looking at coming, If I can, I will."
The two meeting, which went went on an hour longer than scheduled, dealt with Iran, and the rest of the time with the situation in Syria, Iraq and with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu said that Trump was extremely well versed about the details of both the Iranian and Palestinian issues. "In another 60 days he has to make a decision [regarding Iran]. He was very interested in my assessments and recommendations,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister said that he told the president that the deal needed to be either “fully nixed, or fully fixed.”Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.