Coalition near-crisis over conscription

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 30, 2013

Israel’s governing coalition this week avoided its first major crisis since it was formed barely two months ago, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed his defence minister to remove his opposition to a new national service law.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid had threatened to withdraw his party, Yesh Atid, from government if the law was not approved.

The crisis began on Sunday night when, at a ministerial committee meeting, an argument broke out between Science Minister Yaakov Peri and Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon over the sanctions for those who refuse to join the army.

The original draft of the law said that they would be considered criminals. Mr Yaalon objected to this clause, saying that it would “set the Charedi street alight”, and that the defence minister should have discretion to decide what sanctions should be used. On Monday Mr Lapid sent an ultimatum to the prime minister threatening to resign and withdraw from the coalition within 24 hours if the government did not approve a law including criminal sanctions.

On Monday evening, Mr Netanyahu relented and asked Mr Yaalon to approve the law and keep his reservations for the more advanced legislative stages. The cabinet passed the law on Wednesday.

Last updated: 7:45pm, May 30 2013