Shas (do not publish again).
(photo credit: Flash 90)
The IDF conversions bill that passed its first reading Wednesday left the
coalition facing serious questions on the morning after, with factions
positioning themselves to force coalition-jolting legislation through the
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The current push could provide significant challenges to Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition, which until Wednesday had proved
virtually unshakable over 18 months after its formation.
Knesset overwhelmingly voted in favor of Israel Beiteinu’s IDF conversion bill,
a bill passionately opposed by coalition partners Shas and United Torah Judaism,
Shas threatened that in the coming week, the party would advance an equally
Party officials said that the faction would advance
MK Yitzhak Vaknin’s (Shas) bill to subsidize housing for young couples in the
periphery – a law that is strongly opposed by the Treasury due to its projected
With the housing crunch in full swing, and coalition MKs at the
forefront of the push to provide affordable housing, Vaknin’s bill could create
a difficult choice for MKs such as Miri Regev (Likud), the chairwoman of the
Knesset lobby for affordable housing.
Legislation that pits populist
coalition MKs against the Treasury is a common tool for magnifying already
existing coalition cracks – in summer 2008, it was a preferred strategy for
then-opposition leader party Likud to force Kadima MKs to vote against the will
of then-finance minister MK Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima).
The threat to the
coalition does not only come from the losers of Wednesday’s vote, but also from
Israel Beiteinu itself. During his press conference minutes after the vote on
the IDF conversion bill, Israel Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said that he
hoped that his party would be able to advance “significant” as well as
“technical” legislation. As examples, Lieberman listed powder- keg topics such
as changing the governmental system, and the party’s controversial loyalty bill
– both of which were considered too sensitive to advance quickly through the
But Israel Beiteinu sources said Thursday that the
party was interested in advancing many of its more controversial laws, and that
the faction would work systemically to pass them one-by-one, rather than loading
them all on a shakier-than-usual coalition.
The faction official added
that none of the other controversial bills would be raised for debate in coming
weeks, in order to allow the party to concentrate its efforts on quickly passing
the IDF conversion bill through its remaining readings.
One bill that the
faction official said that the party “really wants to advance” is the law that
would establish civil unions for all Israeli citizens, and not just for two
individuals who are both listed as having no religion. The further advancement
of legislation by Israel Beiteinu on issues of religion and state is a constant
threat dangling over the coalition’s head, especially as Kadima has repeatedly
thrown its support behind such bills, which are usually opposed by both UTJ and
Netanyahu could also face a challenge to his coalition in next
month’s Labor convention, which will vote on Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay
Braverman’s proposal to leave the government if the peace process is not
advanced. If the proposal fails however, Labor could be locked into the
coalition for several more months, giving Netanyahu much needed political quiet.