Israel headed to the polls on 9 April
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General Election

Israel headed to the polls on 9 April

General election looms after Benjamin Netanyahu fails to push through new law on military conscription

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, Government Secretary Tzahi Braverman, center right, Yuval Steinitz Israel's Minister of Energy, center left, in charge of Israel Atomic Energy Commission attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018. (Abir Sultan/Pool via AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, Government Secretary Tzahi Braverman, center right, Yuval Steinitz Israel's Minister of Energy, center left, in charge of Israel Atomic Energy Commission attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018. (Abir Sultan/Pool via AP)

Israel is to hold a general election on April 9 after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to push through a controversial law on military conscription for the strictly Orthodox sector.

The decision, by all five heads of the current government coalition, to call elections, came because both the opposition Zionist Union, headed by Avi Gabbay, and the centrist Yesh Atid party, led by Yair Lapid, had announced they would vote against the conscription bill.

Mr Lapid, in particular, charged the government with planning an under-the-table deal in which the strictly Orthodox community would be compensated for financial sanctions against potential draft-dodgers.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, he said that the Finance Ministry had given assurances to Charedi leaders that they would not lose out as a result of the new law. Declaring “we should go to elections. After the elections, a government headed by me will pass the draft law without any wheeling and dealing or fraud,” Mr Lapid said Yesh Atid would no longer support the bill.

Avi Gabbay of the Zionist Union praised Yesh Atid for its stance, and made the same pledge that he, too, once in charge, would re-introduce a conscription law which would spread the burden of defending the country more equally.

Mr Netanyahu told his coalition colleagues: “If it’s too difficult to pass laws, we need elections”.

But a rocky few months lie ahead for the prime minister, who holds the defence and foreign portfolios as well as his own post, and is under investigation for corruption charges.

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