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Yesh Atid, a largely secularist party, campaigned on religious and social reforms, particularly on conscription and marriage. Jewish Home, which is largely modern Orthodox, has blocked some of the changes promised by Yesh Atid, opting instead to make religious bureaucracy more accessible while leaving core policies intact.
Their conflict payed out during the recent debate over the haredi draft bill. Following threats by Yesh Atid to quit the coalition, the bill now includes prison time for haredim who refuse to enlist. But because of pressure from Jewish Home, the penalties won’t take effect until 2017 – enough time for haredim to run in another election and possibly re-enter the governing coalition, where they could roll back the law.
The cause of greatest acrimony has been the peace talks. Hatnua was founded to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. Jewish Home opposes a Palestinian state of any kind and supports settlement growth. Yesh Atid, once a quiet supporter of negotiations, has since become a stronger voice for a two-state solution, widening its rift with Jewish Home.
To jump-start Israeli-Palestinian negotiations last summer, Israel agreed to an unpopular prisoner release. As the talks progressed, Jewish Home threatened to leave the coalition. But eight months later, peace talks are on the verge of collapse and the sides seem to be no closer to a deal.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s security efforts haven’t yielded much success. An interim accord between Iran and the Western powers took effect despite the prime minister’s warnings that it was a “bad deal.” When Israel captured a ship this month laden with weapons destined for terrorist groups that Israel said originated in Iran, few world leaders responded.
“The Israeli strategy collapsed after the November agreement,” said Ephraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. “The world doesn’t want to hear bad news about Iran. The world is hiding its head in the sand.”
One of Israel’s most significant security accomplishments has been clandestine bombings of weapons shipments to Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group. But with Israel’s policy of deliberate ambiguity, Netanyahu can’t officially take credit for the attacks.
Perhaps Netanyahu’s most notable achievement in the year-old government is that the coalition he cobbled together is still intact.
“Every time he keeps going one more year,” Rahat said. “Staying in power is not easy. He looks like a leader above the fray, and he likes it that way.”