Pressure mounts on Israeli PM to call early elections after partner exits

Thu, Jul 19, 2012, 01:00

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU is facing mounting public pressure to call early general elections in Israel following the dramatic exit from the government of his coalition partner, Shaul Mofaz – after only 10 weeks.

Announcing his decision on Tuesday, the Kadima party leader attributed the split to the government’s position on a proposal that would draft ultra-Orthodox and Palestinian Israelis into national service, claiming the prime minister had chosen his ultra-Orthodox and nationalist allies over the opportunity to make “historic changes”.

It was just 70 days ago that Mr Mofaz joined the government, forging the largest coalition in Israel’s history, with the purpose of redrafting conscription laws to “equal the burden” on the Israeli public.

But differences over how quickly the universal draft should be applied and to whom led to the partnership’s spectacular failure.

Shelly Yachimovich – the leader of the opposition during Kadima’s brief alliance with the government – yesterday called on Mr Netanyahu to dissolve the Knesset, schedule elections and end what she described as a “two-month political circus” that has disgraced the Israeli political system.

Avigdor Lieberman, head of the nationalist Yisraeli Beiteinu party and Mr Netanyahu’s foreign minister, has insisted he will not abandon the coalition.

Sources close to the prime minister, however, insist the government is able to function perfectly well without Mr Mofaz.

“There has been no real change other than one minister – Mofaz – has left. The coalition without Kadima worked perfectly well for three years and it will continue to do so now,” an official said yesterday. – (Guardian service)