Benjamin Netanyahu In Tight Spot Over Orthodox Draft Exemption

Coalition Stymied by Pact Between Bennett and Lapid

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By Reuters

Published March 03, 2013.
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Netanyahu, 63, made the remarks during a stiff, formal audience with President Shimon Peres, who approved the prime minister’s request for more time to build a coalition.

A 28-day period to do so has already expired and if Netanyahu - now with an extra 14 days - fails to break the deadlock in coalition talks by March 16, Peres can pick another candidate or call a snap election.

So far, Netanyahu has recruited only one party, centrist Hatnua, led by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni. He was due to hold further talks with Bennett later on Sunday.

On his Facebook page, Lapid said he did not believe that Netanyahu’s current ultra-Orthodox allies, Shas and United Torah Judaism, could be part of a government that wants to make fundamental changes in state benefits for the devout.

“Politicians sometimes have to be ready to pay the price of their convictions. The only conclusion is that it would be no tragedy if they sit in the opposition in the coming term,” Lapid wrote about the religious parties.

Shas leader Eli Yishai appeared to concede on Sunday, saying on Facebook: “In the coming days, a government will finally be formed, without the ultra-Orthodox.”

With Yesh Atid, Jewish Home and Hatnua - and excluding the ultra-Orthodox, who won 18 parliamentary seats - Netanyahu could have a majority government controlling 68 seats. Recruitment of another centrist party, Kadima, would give him 70 seats.

But it could be an uncomfortable mix for Netanyahu, whose government’s survival would then be in Bennett’s and Lapid’s hands, vulnerable to their differences over peace talks.

Netanyahu has pledged ahead of a visit later this month by U.S. President Barack Obama, to try to move forward in peace efforts stalled for the past two years in a dispute over his refusal to halt Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank.

Lapid wants to restart the peace negotiations. Bennett would likely oppose any move to renew a settlement construction freeze sought by the Palestinians.


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