Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday said that his Yisrael Beytenu faction was "no longer obligated" to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's ruling coalition, the future of which he said hinges on implementing an alternative to the "Tal Law" which ensures "enlistment for everyone."
Speaking on Channel 2's 'Meet the Press', Liberman said that for the last three years Yisrael Beytenu has done all in its power to keep the coalition together. The foreign minister stated that while it is in the national interest to keep the coalition together and hold general elections on their originally scheduled date in 2013, Israel Beitenu will not be "held hostage."
Liberman voiced dissatisfaction with the government's failure to live up to promises made in the coalition agreement on the issue of religion and state. Liberman specifically brought up the issue of conversions and army enlistment.
The foreign minister said that talk of new elections was unnecessary at this point and would be explored after Yisrael Beytenu's Tal Law alternative was put to a Knesset vote on May 9. The Tal Law – declared illegal by the High Court of Justice in February – provided the legal framework for ultra-Orthodox men to defer IDF service indefinitely. Yisrael Beytenu’s alternative to the Tal Law would require almost all 18-year-olds, regardless of faith or religious observance, to enlist in either the IDF or fulfill national service.
Liberman also addressed former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin's criticism of Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak voiced over the weekend. The foreign minister said that Diskin should have resigned his position immediately, rather than serve out his entire term if he had "no faith" in Barak and Netanyahu as he said Friday.
The foreign minister attacked Diskin, as well as Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, for continuing to "chatter" in the media about the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
He referred to talk of the Iranian threat as "completely unnecessary," citing recent comments made by Barak and Gantz, which he said came two days apart and were completely opposite, as proof of the absurdity of the public discourse on Iran.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.