PM Netanyahu and coalition chairman David Amsalem
PM Netanyahu and coalition chairman David Amsalem Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

A senior official in Israel’s Likud-led governing coalition believes the end is nigh for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s current government, after former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman bolted, leaving Netanyahu with a razor-thin majority of 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

Earlier this month, Liberman and his five-MK Yisrael Beytenu faction left the government in protest over a ceasefire agreement with the Gaza-based terror group Hamas, which was signed following a massive barrage of rockets on southern Israel.

While Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party threatened to join Yisrael Beytenu in leaving the government if he was not tapped as Defense Minister, the Jewish Home later withdrew its ultimatum, choosing to remain in the coalition.

Though the government managed to remain intact and avoid snap elections for the time being, it failed its first major legislative test earlier this week, when the government failed to secure a majority for the ‘Cultural Loyalty Law’, forcing the coalition to drop a vote planned for Monday from the agenda.

The Cultural Loyalty Law was pushed by Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, and would empower the minister to strip funding from artists or groups which publicly reject Israel as a Jewish, democratic state; mark Israeli independence day as a day of mourning; desecrate or destroy Israeli national symbols like the flag; or to praise or otherwise express solidarity with terrorism.

The government’s failure to pass the bill was seen as a major defeat for the coalition, and a sign that it would be difficult to pass more difficult pieces of legislation, including an amendment to the draft law.

On Wednesday, Israel Hayom reported that a senior coalition official claimed that the government was nearing its end.

“Almost every week there is some new drama, a crisis, deals,” the official said. “Knesset members are pushed bills on their own. This looks like the beginning of the end.”

“More than anything else, it looks like [Finance Minister Moshe] Kahlon wants to dismantle the government, but doesn’t want to be credited with doing so. It’s not clear how much longer we can go on like this.”

The coalition official also touched on the pending amendment to the draft law, which replaces parts of the draft law struck down by the Supreme Court in 2017. The court had given the government one year to pass a replacement law regarding draft deferments for yeshiva students.

After it became apparent that the government could not pass the bill in time for the deadline, it requested a six-month extension from the court, but was given just three months.

With the new deadline of December 2nd approaching, the coalition is unlikely to pass new legislation protecting the draft deferment program in time for the deadline.

“We’ve asked for a [second] extension from the Supreme Court, because at the moment, we have no solution,” the coalition official said.

“Simply put, at the moment we have no political solution, and so we’re just trying to buy time. Even if the Supreme Court will pressure us, there’s really nothing we can do for the time being. The political situation doesn’t permit us to solve the problem. The haredim are opposed [to the current bill, proposed by Liberman] and will vote against it, [opposition MKs] Lapid and Liberman, who despite saying they would vote for the bill have now gone back on their promises because they claim there are deals being cut behind their backs. In short, it won’t pass.”