Liberman: A Jewish state, yes, a theocracy no

Liberman is holding fast to his negotiating position that the conscription, or draft, bill must not be changed.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Avigdor Liberman, head of the Israel Beiteinu party, refuses to budge from his position that he will only enter a Netanyahu-led government if the IDF conscription bill isn’t touched. The proposed law concerns the drafting of haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, Jew of military age into the Israel Defense Forces.

His tough negotiating stance has earned him the ire of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party as well as the Haredi parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas, each of which won eight seats in the April elections. Israel Beiteinu holds five.

Liberman, responding to the Likud’s public campaign to get him back to the negotiating table by claiming he is trying to torpedo a right-wing government, wrote in his defense on Facebook on Saturday, “It’s not clear why, instead of pressuring the haredi parties… the Likud has chosen to slander Israel Beiteinu.”

“The Draft bill was written up in complete coordination with the heads of the haredi parties, and other than one of those, everyone agreed on it,” he wrote, referring to the fact that the law passed an initial reading under the last government.

Liberman suggested in his post that the haredi Knesset members could leave the parliament floor during the vote, as they had done the first time. “All the others in the coalition must promise to support the original version. When that happens, a real right-wing government will be formed, not a haredi government,” he wrote.

“Israel Beiteinu believes in the principle of ‘live and let live.’ We’re for a Jewish state, we’re against a state of halacha [Jewish law]. Therefore, accept our suggestion. In case not, we’ll return to elections. The nation will decide if it wants a right-wing government, or a government of haredim.”

Liberman  also took a shot at Netanyahu, saying “The right isn’t a personality cult. The right comprises values. Army service was always an uppermost value in the worldview of the nationalist camp.”

Young Orthodox men can claim an exemption from military service on the basis that they are studying in seminary, a rule that goes back to the beginning of the state. However, the large numbers who have claimed exemption on that basis have created resentment among the general population. A 2014 law ended religious-study exemptions but that law was subsequently cancelled by Israel’s Supreme Court in 2017.

The Draft bill, introduced under the last government when Liberman served as defense minister, is another effort to address the issue.

Read  Ultra-Orthodox minister threatens to topple gov't if draft law not passed

According to Israel’s Makor Rishon, Liberman may also be positioning himself to attract secular, right-wing votes — those who share values commonly associated with the right but oppose the mixing of religion and state. Outgoing education minister, Naftali Bennett, tried, but failed, to attract these voters in sufficient numbers in the last elections, missing by a mere 1,400 votes the minimum number of votes required to enter the Knesset.

It is necessary for Liberman to reinvent himself, the paper notes, as his constituency, Russian immigrants, is shrinking.

Netanyahu has until midnight Wednesday to form a new governing coalition. He needs both the haredi parties and Liberman’s party to succeed.