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For Netanyahu, adding ultra-Orthodox parties - traditionally focused on their religious constituencies rather than on foreign policy - to a governing coalition could make it easier to leave out far-right factions and move forward in peacemaking.
“The voter wanted Netanyahu to be prime minister and Lapid to be the senior partner,” Vice Premier Silvan Shalom of Likud-Beitenu told Army Radio before the two convened at the prime minister’s Jerusalem residence.
“And the voter also wanted there to be a national unity government … so we would like to see everyone inside,” Shalom said. “We are making every effort vis-a-vis the ultra-Orthodox, too. They also understand that times have changed, that something must be done.”
Most Israeli men and women are called up for military service for up to three years when they turn 18. However, exceptions are made for most Arab citizens of Israel, as well as ultra-Orthodox men and women.
About 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men engage in full-time Jewish religious studies, keeping them out of the labour market and burdening the economy and state resources.