Netanyahu convenes emergency meeting to salvage coalition talks

With the deadline rapidly approaching to form a new government, Netanyahu called a meeting on Thursday evening skipped by the man seen as the linchpin for the coalition, Avigdor Liberman.

By World Israel News Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gathered potential coalition partners at his Jerusalem office on Thursday for an unannounced meeting at which the future of the next Israeli government weighed in the balance.

According to reports after the meeting, Netanyahu is committed to moving forward with a minority coalition if a majority cannot be assembled, which may represent a last resort if Netanyahu cannot entice Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman to join forces.

Liberman, for his part, was absent from the meeting Thursday evening, leading to speculation that Netanyahu will not be able to form a majority coalition prior to the arrival of the deadline on May 28.

The other route Netanyahu could take is calling new general elections.

At the Thursday meeting, 60 lawmakers committed to not supporting anyone besides Netanyahu for prime minister, Times of Israel reported. A 60-member coalition is one Knesset member less than a majority in the Israeli parliament.

According to the Times, Liberman responded to reports surrounding the meeting by commenting, “A government of 60 is not a right-wing government, but an ultra-Orthodox government that, instead of preserving Israel as a Jewish state, will change it into a theocracy.” As a result, Liberman said he would unequivocally object to the proposed minority government.

At the heart of Liberman’s objection to the current coalition is his party’s position on legislation requiring orthodox Jews to serve in the Israeli military, as opposed to maintaining a fragile traditional compromise under which men who learn in yeshivas (study halls) are granted exemptions from IDF service.

With Netanyahu’s coalition relying on two Haredi parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas, which oppose mandatory military service for men in yeshivas, the legislation represents a potentially lethal sticking point for the prime minister.

Certain members of other parties remained optimistic after the Thursday meeting, such as Bezalel Smotrich of the United Right, who told Channel 13 he was confident a coalition would be formed.