With military draft reform, Netanyahu learns he can't please everyone
Prime Minister Netanyahu is accused of catering to ultra-Orthodox with his stance on draft exemptions, but the religious group isn't happy with him, either.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has adeptly navigated Israel’s infamously volatile political landscape for more than three years – until this month. Now he is trapped between two diametrically opposed political forces – the ultra-Orthodox and the secular centrist and left parties – with no clear way of satisfying both as he heads into possible elections.
When the centrist Kadima party and its leader, Shaul Mofaz, bolted a 10-week-old "unity" coalition yesterday, accusing the prime minister of moving too slowly on the politically charged issue of ending military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews, the reputations of both politicians were tarnished.
Commentators pointed to the swift divorce as evidence that the leaders formed their match out of political convenience, rather than a joint desire to make controversial reforms, as they initially argued.
In mid-May, Mr. Netanyahu reversed a plan to hold a snap election in September in favor of forming a broad coalition with Mr. Mofaz to tackle draft reform, election reform, and the peace process. The leaders touted it as a "historic" chance to change the draft system, which for decades has allowed thousands of ultra-Orthodox young adults to avoid the mandatory two or three-year military service and subsequent reserve duty by remaining in state-funded religious seminaries.