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Will Netanyahu form a government by midnight – or force new elections?

Will Netanyahu form a government by midnight – or force new elections?
If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proves incapable of sorting a crisis over army conscription and cobbling together a coalition government, his party plans to dissolve the parliament tonight and schedule new elections.

After his ruling Likud party narrowly won national elections on April 9, Israel’s president handed Netanyahu a mandate to form a coalition constituting at least 61 seats in the country’s 120-seat legislature, the Knesset.

But with only hours left in the six weeks Netanyahu has been given to negotiate such an alliance, it’s unclear if he will manage to accomplish this feat by midnight Jerusalem time.

At issue is the chasm between the demands of two right-wing factions that Netanyahu needs to join his governing bloc. Two ultra-Orthodox parties with 16 parliamentary seats between them are adamant that their constituency remain exempt from Israeli army service. Meanwhile, the secular faction of former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is insisting that the ultra-Orthodox be conscripted to the military.

Surveying the pulse of the Israeli street, RT asked passersby where they stood on the issue. Among the respondents, some insisted that military conscription should be universal, regardless of religiosity. “I think we all have to serve in the army, because we are all citizens of Israel,” opined one Israeli woman.

Other secular citizens RT spoke to took the opposite approach, asserting that the community should be exempt from the army draft. “I don’t think Orthodox should go to the army, because that’s not what they believe in,” the woman said.

Also on rt.com WATCH Ultra-Orthodox Jews clash with police over military draft (VIDEOS)

Yet other Israelis polled struck a middle ground, suggesting that a compromise should be struck between the two camps. “We should let some of them actually study the Bible, study the Torah,” one Israeli man suggested. “Although most of them should really either get drafted to the army, or do some sort of civil service,” he added.

If Netanyahu can’t get Lieberman and the ultra-Orthodox lawmakers to embrace such a compromise in time, he will be left with no choice but to admit that he has failed to assemble a government. If Netanyahu then follows through on his earlier threats, he will send the country back to the polls by dissolving the Knesset – less than a month after it was sworn in.

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