Opposition leaders on Tuesday slammed the compromise deal reached by coalition members to end the political crisis over ultra-Orthodox draft laws that threatened to bring down the government and prompt early elections.
Labor chairman Avi Gabbay said he was “pained” that a snap election had been averted, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of corruption and bickering.
“It pains me that elections were called off,” Gabbay tweeted. “The bad news is that the situation is not going to stay the same, it will get worse.”
He said that ultimately “honesty will triumph over corruption and truth will triumph over bickering,” and that next election cycle Israelis would allow the political left to “bring about the change that so many yearn for.”
Netanyahu had accused the opposition of fearing elections, after polls showed him staying in power. On Tuesday, after reaching a deal to stave off elections, he teased opposition members from the Knesset rostrum.
“That was scary, wasn’t it? I’m glad the color has returned to your cheeks. I know that I saved you from massive disappointment, because had there been elections, I’d be back here [at the lectern] and you’d continue to throw out commentary,” he said.
Zionist Union chairman Yair Lapid, who has become Netanyahu’s strongest rival according to surveys, slammed the deal allowing members of the ultra-Orthodox community to avoid army enlistment, saying that IDF soldiers would pay the ultimate price for the compromise.
Addressing the Knesset, Lapid said Netanyahu’s government abandoned its commitment to national unity, and instead was causing “divisiveness and incitement” among the Jewish people.
“This togetherness includes the IDF soldiers who you just threw under the wheels of the coalition, in return for just a few more months in power,” he said.
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg called the deal “rotten,” and said the left-wing opposition party would welcome new elections.
“The prime minister is nervous and hysterical,” she said in a statement. “He will go to elections under the thick cloud of corruption.”
“We are not afraid of elections,” Zandberg added, saying that recent polls indicating that Netanyahu enjoyed strong support despite criminal allegations against him, were not “a certificate of integrity for a corrupt leader.”
Earlier Tuesday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted unanimously to allow coalition party leaders freedom in instructing their faction how to vote on an ultra-Orthodox-backed bill exempting Haredi students from joining the IDF.
The conscription bill passed its first of three votes shortly after, with Yisrael Beytenu party’s five lawmakers, who are fiercely opposed to the law, permitted to vote against it.
The bill is slated to be amended according to recommendations to be drafted by the Defense Ministry, and will face its final two votes in the summer. The 2019 state budget is also slated to be approved under the deal, as Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has demanded.
Michael Bachner contributed to this report.