Israel’s Kadima party quits Netanyahu government
JERUSALEM: Israel’s Kadima party quit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition on Tuesday in a dispute over drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, but the government was not expected to collapse becaue it still had a majority in parliament.
“The decision was eventually reached with an unequivocal majority,” Kadima lawmaker Yoel Hasson told Israel Radio. “We have finally left this government,” he said.
Kadima joined Netanyahu in a grand coalition only two months ago, with the declared aim of ending the decades-old exemption of seminary students from conscription. Shaul Mofaz, a former defence chief, became vice premier.
Kadima decided to pull out after failing to reach agreement with Netanyahu’s Likud on a new conscription law.
Centrist Kadima is the largest party in Israel’s parliament, holding 28 out of 120 seats. With Kadima, Netanyahu controlled 94 parliamentary seats in one of the biggest coalitions in Israel’s history.
Military service is a highly emotive issue in Israel, where most men and women start two or three years of service at the age of 18 and many are subsequently called up for reserve duty into their 40s.
Many fervently Orthodox Jews are exempted so they can pursue religious studies, angering the more secular majority.
The Supreme Court ruled in February that the law which allowed the exemptions was unconstitutional and set an August 1 deadline for its expiry.