Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reveal in upcoming hours whether he favors initiating an election over haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription, an adviser to Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post Monday afternoon.
Netanyahu will deliver a speech to the Knesset later Monday, because 40 opposition Knesset members requested it. The adviser said the prime minister would reveal his intentions in that speech, which will take place after he listens to many opposition MKs criticize him.
Earlier Monday, Netanyahu appeared to hint that he would not initiate an election. In a statement released to the press, he boasted about the accomplishments of his government.
"Our government is a terrific government," Netanyahu said. "Therefore, it is important to continue our partnership that has brought about these achievements. I call upon all my coalition partners, starting with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, to remain in the government and continue this partnership to guarantee security, prosperity and stability to the State of Israel."
But sources close to Netanyahu said Monday that if Yisrael Beytenu MK Sofa Landver votes against a controversial conscription bill
, he will fire her, and Liberman said that if Netanyahu fires Landver, his party would leave Netanyahu's coalition, which could lead to the prime minister initiating an election.
Although there is a tradition that ministers are fired if they vote against their government, Netanyahu is not legally required to fire Landver. Asked by the Post
whether the prime minister would fire Landver, the adviser said Netanyahu would answer the question in his Knesset speech.
Liberman called the conscription bill "a laugher" and a "fake bill" and called current plans to pass the bill in a preliminary reading this week and then change it later "a theater of the absurd." In a meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu faction, he said the faction would vote against the bill, including Landver. Liberman does not have the same problem as her, because he is not an MK.
Even if Netanyahu does not fire Landver, Liberman said his party would leave the coalition if the conscription bill passes into law after the Knesset recess without undergoing substantial changes.
"Being defense minister is wonderful, but values must come first," Liberman said. "We don't want elections, and we don't want the government to break up, but not at any price."
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who bashed Netanyahu Sunday, when he thought the prime minister was initiating elections, defended him Monday, while criticizing Liberman and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid for opposing the conscription bill.
"We said a week ago it was a fake crisis, and we stand behind that," Bennett told his faction, while holding up a sign with haredi conscription data. "Now there is fake leadership of hiding behind polls, rather than telling people the truth. Haredi conscription is going up. The IDF doesn't want so many haredim so fast. Liberman and Lapid know. They should tell their people the truth, even if it is uncomfortable."