Less than 18 months after being brought to power in the parliamentary elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a rising tide of unrest from both his secular allies and religious parties that threatens to tear his narrow right-far-right coalition asunder.
Perhaps the most visible conflict has been with his party’s largest partner, Yisrael Beiteinu. The party’s leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been at odds with Netanyahu over a growing number of occasions in which Netanyahu circumvented his office in international diplomacy, and now Lieberman has taken to doing the same, bypassing Neyanyahu in his appointment of an acting UN ambassador.
But while this clash of personalities and policies is serious, an even more difficult issue to reconcile may be the fight over the Israeli “conversion law.”
Netanyahu has made it clear that he opposes the conversion law, as have a number of his secular allies (including Lieberman). The religious parties, however, are not only in favor of the law but adamantly so, with at least one high profile rabbi, Shlomo Amar, urging religious parties to withdraw from the coalition government if they don’t get it passed.
The formation of the current coalition was no small task, with the secularist and religious right wing diametrically opposed on a number of issues. Still, it is possible the coalition could survive the loss of some of its members, though it would be decidedly weakened. The losses could quickly snowball, however, and raise the prospect of an early election.
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