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‘Don’t drag Israel into civil war’: Ultra-Orthodox party urges ex-minister over military draft bill

‘Don’t drag Israel into civil war’: Ultra-Orthodox party urges ex-minister over military draft bill
Israel’s ultra-Orthodox party has called on former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman not to “drag Israel into civil war” by refusing to back down on a bill that would include Haredi men in the mandatory military draft.

“We are calling on Lieberman not to drag Israel into civil war,” Shas said in a statement that accused the ex-minister of “not telling the truth about the draft law” and using it as an “excuse to topple the right-wing government.” Their criticism echoes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s earlier sentiments on the issue.  

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Netanyahu has until Wednesday to form a coalition government after April’s elections left his Likud Party short of enough seats. Yisrael Beiteinu chair Lieberman has said he would only form a government with Likud if the bill about ultra-Orthodox conscription was passed in the Knesset. Ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students are currently able to defer from the Israel Defense Forces draft.

Shas said Lieberman’s unwillingness to change a “comma or word” in the law makes it “clear that he is not interested in any substantive solution or discussion, but all he wants is to obstruct the establishment of a government.”

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Netanyahu believes Lieberman doesn’t really want to enter a government with him and that he’s trying to anger the ultra-Orthodox parties so that they won’t compromise on the contentious military draft bill, which would force a new election, Haaretz reports. Likud claims it’s an attempt to turn the debate into a war over religion, saying that the ultra-Orthodox may have been willing to compromise, but now are too angry to back down.

Lieberman denies this, writing on Facebook that his party "said in a clear and public manner that we would only support Netanyahu as the candidate to form the government,” and that it “rejected every offer” it got from other parties.

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He said that Likud should be pressuring the main opponent of the bill, United Torah Judaism's Yaakov Litzman.

The bill passed its first of three readings in the last Knesset in July. It places eventual financial penalties on religious schools that fail to send a quota of yeshiva students to the military. The religious parties want the bill to be softened.

Lieberman quit Likud in November after Netanyahu agreed to a ceasefire with Hamas, and the PM reportedly believes his former defense minister is taking a tough stance on the draft bill because Netanyahu wouldn’t agree to change his Gaza policy when the pair met after the elections.

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