Two Israeli ministers opted not to attend this week’s meeting of coalition party heads due to the dispute over a bill that seeks to exempt ultra-Orthodox students from military service. According to senior Likud officials, the crisis surrounding the bill will likely lead the country to an early election.

Cabinet meeting (archive)

Cabinet meeting (archive) Photo Credit: Ohad Zweigenberg/Flash 90

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman skipped this week’s meeting of coalition party heads over disagreements regarding a bill that seeks to exempt ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from military service. Due to their absence, the meeting was adjourned after 20 minutes.

Liberman reportedly told his close associates that he does not regularly attend the weekly meetings because their content is usually leaked to the press. Meanwhile, senior Likud officials estimate that due to the coalition crisis, Israel will likely head to the polls in June.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office stated that while the meeting was held “in a good atmosphere,” no compromise has been reached with the Haredi parties regarding the military draft bill. “The coalition heads are waiting for their [the ultra-Orthodox parties’] version and afterward they will continue the discussions to solve the crisis,” the Prime Minister’s Office added.

Earlier today, Netanyahu said that he will continue to try to prevent the dissolution of his government but stressed that having a narrow majority coalition is “not an option.”

“One thing is clear – we cannot maintain a 61-member coalition,” Netanyahu said, alluding to Liberman’s threats to quit the government unless a solution to the military draft bill dispute is found. Netanyahu proceeded to accuse members of his own Likud party of sabotaging the negotiations. He then reiterated that he still wants the current government to finish its term but stressed, “For that to happen, all parties must reach an agreement and choose to carry on together.”