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First day of Knesset overshadowed by talk of elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu devoted his 40-minute speech at the festive opening of the session by listing his government’s diplomatic, security and economic accomplishments.
The Knesset opened its winter session on Monday amid speculation about when the parliament will be dispersed and when the next election will be initiated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu devoted his 40-minute speech at the festive opening of the session by listing his government’s diplomatic, security and economic accomplishments and criticizing the opposition.“It is not our democracy that has been lost, as the opposition says, but the Leftocracy,” Netanyahu said, coining a new word. “The opposition is disconnected from the nation.

Arab and left-wing MKs heckled Netanyahu, not taking the advice of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who prior to the prime minister’s speech said “Whether or not it is an election year, I will not permit the Knesset to become a circus.”

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni reacted to the prime minister’s speech by referring to the criminal investigations against him and saying that he deserved an indictments for his government’s missed opportunities.

Earlier, at weekly faction meetings, party heads took turns reacting to Sunday night’s decision of the Agudat Yisrael Council of Torah Sages to compromise on the controversial haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment law and not cause an early election.

“The decision of the rabbis was balanced, smart and responsible,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told his Yisrael Beytenu faction. “Anyone looking for an excuse to advance the election will have to look for another excuse. The draft bill will pass even if [Agudat Yisrael] votes against it, and there won’t be a reason to leave the coalition.”But Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told his Kulanu faction that they would only support the bill if there are no changes made to the legislation that was written by the IDF.

“The bill isn’t intended to resolve coalition disputes,” Kahlon said. “If the bill isn’t acceptable to the army, we won’t support it.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett told his Bayit Yehudi faction that he is satisfied with the current government, and he believes the next election should be held on time in November 2019.

Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay said the government could be toppled but won’t be, because Yesh Atid supports the conscription bill, which he called “the draft evasion bill.”

Lapid told The Jerusalem Post at his Yesh Atid faction meeting that he supported the bill, because it would help haredim by bringing them into the army and the work force. He mocked Netanyahu for cancelling Sunday’s weekly meeting of coalition party heads, because the prime minister and his ministers were waiting for the verdict of the rabbis.

“They didn’t even pretend,” Lapid said. “They waited for their real bosses.”
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