No early election

This is wrong. There is no justifiable reason for Israel to go to an early election because of a bill that will remain an issue for the next government – which by the way will be led by Netanyahu.

By
August 16, 2018 21:58
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a Likud faction meeting, July 2 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a Likud faction meeting, July 2 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened to call an early election if an agreement is not reached between his coalition partners in the coming two weeks on the IDF draft bill.

This is wrong. There is no justifiable reason for Israel to go to an early election because of a bill that will remain an issue for the next government – which by the way will, according to polls, be led by Netanyahu.

Looming on the horizon is December 2, the deadline set by the High Court of Justice for the Knesset to pass the law. If it is not passed, all yeshiva students currently receiving military deferrals will be obligated to enlist. This will result in mass refusal since the yeshiva students will evade the draft. Even if they didn’t, the IDF would not be able to draft all of them anyway.

A new bill was approved in its first Knesset reading in July, stipulating annual targets for Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment. It faced strong opposition from Agudat Yisrael, part of the United Torah Judaism Knesset faction, which strongly opposes any financial sanctions. On the other hand, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu Party insists on keeping the financial sanctions clause since the law would otherwise have no enforcement.

We find it difficult to believe that a compromise is not possible and that an early election is the only option. Firstly, an early election might postpone the legislation but it will not solve the issue. According to current polls, Likud’s natural coalition partners – Bayit Yehudi, Yisrael Beytenu, Kulanu and the Haredi parties – are projected to remain more or less the same size. This means that the same parties will once again need to deal with the same issue.

As a result, the disruption in governance will not lead to change. An early election will only kick the can down the road.

In addition, this type of challenge is exactly what a government is meant to solve. It is called governing. Running to an early election instead of solving a difficult issue is not a solution – it is avoiding responsibility. Israeli citizens deserve a government that is willing to tackle tough issues and solve them with wisdom and creativity.

We believe that the makeup of this government is exactly the right mix that is needed to solve the draft issue. Having the Haredim inside the government is important for the bill to succeed since the Haredi leadership will need to sell the bill to their constituency.

In any case, both sides – those in favor of drafting Haredim and those opposed – know that reality is stronger than any law the Knesset passes. With or without the bill, the number of Haredim already enlisting in the IDF will continue to grow.

Sadly, it seems that Netanyahu might have other motivations for calling an early election – a desire to be reelected before Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit makes a decision on whether to indict him for any of the police allegations against him.

Either way, Israel is a country that deserves political stability. A stable government is needed to retain economic growth, to continue to improve the education system, to upgrade roads and railways and to increase productivity.

On the security front, Israel faces major challenges: Iran is entrenched in Syria and Hezbollah continues to expand its missile arsenal in Lebanon. While a cease-fire appears to be in place in the Gaza Strip, it is not expected to last long and Israel will need to be prepared for a renewed outbreak of extreme violence in the near future.

An early election will also be expensive. Besides the direct cost to the Israeli taxpayer, it means government ministries will enter a holding pattern for at least six months and long-term planning will be derailed. And when new ministers take up their posts, they will mostly need to start from scratch.

For too many of its 70 years, Israel has suffered from political instability. The Haredi draft bill is not a good enough reason to keep that tradition.


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