'Israel has been taken captive by haredi extremists'

Defense Minister launches a broadside on haredi parties over Draft Law impasse, accuses haredim of 'extorting' government.

Tzvi Lev ,

Defense Minister Liberman
Defense Minister Liberman
Flash 90

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman excoriated haredi lawmakers on Thursday, and vowed not to support any bill that would protect draft deferments for yeshiva students.

"In recent days, Israel has been taken captive by a group of extremist elements, who are threatening to drag us all into unnecessary elections, in a difficult security situation, and demand that we surrender to their blackmail," Liberman said.

Liberman said that his Yisrael Beytenu faction would not compromise on its principles, even if it meant the collapse of the government and early elections.

"Yisrael Beytenu is a loyal partner in the right-wing government, but we will not give up the principles that guide us, which are security and responsibility, and we will not negotiate with a pistol pressed to our head," said Liberman.

The defense minister said that any coalition deal releasing haredi men from military service needed to be passed after taking the military's needs into account and not the requirements of the haredi community.

"It is inconceivable that such a significant bill, which deals with the very heart of the army of the people and Israeli society, is dependent on the Council of Torah Sages alone, without even asking the IDF. It is a lack of national responsibility," alleged Liberman.

"I do not want elections, it is important that Israeli governments serve until the end of the term, but I have responsibility for the security of Israel and the IDF, and I am not prepared to compromise on these principles," Liberman continued.

The coalition crisis began last month, when haredi lawmakers warned the Prime Minister that they would refrain from voting for the state budget, potentially denying the government a majority on the critical vote, if legislation securing army deferments for yeshiva students is not passed. Failure to pass the spending plan could lead to the dissolution of the Likud-led government and new elections.

Members of the Shas and United Torah Judaism factions insist that the government promote new draft legislation circumventing a Supreme Court ruling last year which struck down a 2015 law reinstating army deferments for full-time yeshiva students.

Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) also threatened on Tuesday that if the state budget does not pass by the eve of the Passover, he intends to resign from his position as finance minister and bring about the resignation of his party from the coalition.

"If we stop the approval of the budget, we are hurting large populations of elderly people and families who do not need to be part of the argument," Kahlon said.