Netanyahu and Mofaz
Netanyahu and MofazIsrael news photo: Flash 90

After having hinted that he believes Kadima wants to leave the coalition government, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s associates said in private conversations on Sunday evening that Netanyahu regrets having added Kadima to the coalition.

According to a Channel 10 News report, the Likud party is now considering holding early elections next January, due to Netanyahu’s inability to trust that Kadima will support the approval of the budget for 2013.

Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu voiced agreement with Education Minister Gideon Saar, who said at the weekly cabinet meeting, “Kadima wants to break up the partnership, it's all a game.”

Netanyahu then commented, “There is much truth in this statement.”

Netanyahu’s aides told Channel 10 that he has not yet decided what he will do with the current crisis with Kadima over the new draft bill, noting that although there are still negotiations taking place between the parties, Netanyahu knows that the gaps are wide.

The aides estimated that the current Knesset session will conclude in two weeks as scheduled, but it will be dissolved at the start of the next session and early elections will be held in February at the latest.

Kadima and its leader, Minister Shaul Mofaz, have threatened to leave the coalition if the party's hard-line version of the hareidi enlistment law is not legislated. Likud minister Moshe Ya'alon has said that Kadima's bill reflects the fact that its author, MK Yohanan Plesner, "wants war" with the hareidim.

MK Plesner's bill sets a maximal number of hareidi Torah scholars who would receive exemption from military service, and would place personal sanctions on anyone else who does not enlist. Likud favors a more gradual approach, which enlarges the number of hareidim who enlist over a period of years, without setting a maximum number of exemptions.

According to Channel 10, Netanyahu knows that if no compromise is reached on the enlistment issue, Kadima will not support the state budget for 2013, a fact which would in any case lead to the dissolution of the Knesset.

Ironically, if Mofaz decides to quit the coalition, some members of Kadima are likely to split from the party and remain in Netanyahu's coalition, noted the report. However, in order to split from the party the departing members would have to recruit a quarter of the faction’s MKs.