Netanyahu snap election saga

JERUSALEM – A dispute within Israel’s governing coalition over military conscription of ultra-orthodox Jewish men stirred speculation on Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to see a snap election to help him survive corruption investigations.

Right-wing and religious parties in the government are divided over the framing of a Bill that would protect the exemption ultra-Orthodox men have traditionally enjoyed from compulsory military service. That has led to a series of urgent meetings between Mr Netanyahu and his political partners.

After coalition talks on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu’s office said Cabinet ministers were waiting for ultra-Orthodox parties, which control 13 of the government’s 66 seats in the 120-member parliament, to present a revised formula for the legislation. Secularist right-wing parties want the exemption lifted or at least the language changed. In the past the parties have compromised over the issue, but at least one coalition partner suggested Mr Netanyahu was not invested in preventing the government’s collapse.

“It is a fake crisis that can be resolved. It all depends on Netanyahu,” Naftali Bennett, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home party that holds eight seats, told Israel Radio.

“If you bring down a right-wing government and lead us to unnecessary elections for personal aims, you will lose us,” Mr Bennett added on Twitter, apparently hinting at withdrawing future support for Mr Netanyahu if the prime minister is indicted.