Israel on the verge of snap election with hours left until deadline to form a coalition

In wake of dispute over drafting yeshiva students into the military, President Rivlin says he will do 'everything in my power' to prevent another election


Israel is on the brink of calling a snap general election, with hours remaining until a deadline for Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition government. 

The Israeli prime minister’s negotiations appear deadlocked by a dispute with Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the right-wing secular Yisrael Beiteinu party, whose demands for a military draft law are opposed by Mr Netanyahu’s religious partners. 

If a deal is not struck by midnight (10pm UK time), President Reuven Rivlin could ask another politician to try form a government — such as opposition leader Benny Gantz. 

But it is also possible that the Knesset could vote to dissolve itself before the deadline, triggering snap elections as early as September 17.  

Mr Rivlin said in a video statement on Wednesday afternoon that he will "do everything in my power" to prevent a second Israeli general election in 2019.

Mr Lieberman, whose party has five seats, is crucial to Mr Netanyahu’s plans for a Knesset majority. The Yisrael Beiteinu leader wants assurances that a law that he drafted last year, which regulates the enlistment of yeshiva students into the military, will be passed without amendment. 

But Shas and United Torah Judaism — the Strictly Orthodox parties in the chamber, which together have 16 seats — oppose the law’s quotas for drafting students and demand the right to alter them. 

British-Israeli businessman Samuel Hayek is among the figures attempting to mediate an agreement between the two leaders.

On Tuesday night Mr Lieberman again rejected calls to compromise, insisting the Strictly Orthodox parties should simply abstain on the yeshiva draft bill.  

Mr Netanyahu’s Likud responded by putting the party on an election footing and tabling a motion to dissolve the Knesset. The bill passed its first of three readings on Tuesday. 

If the remaining two stages are approved on Wednesday, it will mark the first time Israeli politicians have failed to form a government following an election. 

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