Haredi MK threatens elections if budget demand not met, says Netanyahu ‘not a leader’

United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler speaks during a session at the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, June 12, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler speaks during a session at the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, June 12, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A coalition lawmaker from the Agudat Yisrael faction of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party threatens to pull out of the government and send the country to early elections if the demand for an additional NIS 600 million ($164 million) as part of the upcoming state budget isn’t met, saying that “we need to reevaluate our entire standing in this coalition.”

MK Yisrael Eichler tells Haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat that his faction first agreed to hold back on its demand for a quick law exempting Haredi men from military service — which the High Court of Justice has repeatedly struck down as unconstitutional — until a so-called override clause is legislated as part of the government’s judicial overhaul plan, which would allow a simple majority of lawmakers to re-legislate the law anyway.

But since the overhaul has now been paused and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly come out against the override clause in its proposed form, Eichler says: “The moment there is no [judicial] reform, no draft [exemption law], and no [additional] budget, we will need to reevaluate what we are doing here.”

Asked by the interviewer what other choices his faction has, Eichler says: “Perhaps there’s a choice called elections.”

Asked if he believes the judicial overhaul will end up passing, Eichler derides Netanyahu, using his nickname: “If Bibi were a leader, he would have passed it. Unless a military coup were done to him — and a military coup was done to him. I can’t judge someone who had a military coup done to him, he’s not in control. But he will need to retake control of matters.”

That is an apparent reference to a threat by many reserve soldiers, including pilots and soldiers in elite units, not to show up for training or even for operational duty if the overhaul passes, saying that would be serving under a “dictatorship.” The protest caused Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to warn of tangible danger to Israel’s security, which ultimately forced Netanyahu to freeze the entire legislative push.

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