20 June, Wednesday

Israel's Netanyahu hints at early elections


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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel’s ruling coalition government -- led by his right-wing Likud party -- should call early elections if it can’t resolve its dispute with the ultra-orthodox Jewish (Haredi) community over military conscription, Israeli media reported Wednesday.
According to Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Netanyahu, in a statement, warned that the government would have to find a viable solution to Haredi demands for conscription-related legislation or call snap elections.
The dispute erupted last week when the ultra-orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party threatened not to support a proposed 2019 state budget unless an army conscription bill -- which would formally recognize Torah studies as being equal to military service -- was passed by the Knesset (Israel’s parliament).
The Yisrael Beiteinu party, for its part, which is led by hardline Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, has rejected the UTJ’s demands.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who heads the Kolano party, has threatened to resign from his post if the budget is not approved by the end of this month.
Yedioth Ahronoth quoted an official close to the prime minister as saying: “Netanyahu’s aim right now is for the government to complete its term.”
“There’s no point in dismantling the government in May,” he added. “Therefore, without an agreement that ensures the government's continued lifespan, there is no choice but to go to [early] elections.”
The official went on to assert that Netanyahu was prepared to present coalition partners with two alternatives.
The first would be to hammer out an agreement that would ensure the coalition government completes its scheduled term. The second would be to call early elections.
“There is no third option,” the official was quoted as saying.

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