Lieberman vows to stay in Israel govt after Kadima bolts

AFP , Wednesday 18 Jul 2012

Following a dispute within the Israeli government over the expansion of a military conscription law to include ultra-Orthodox Jews that saw the exit of Kadima on Tuesday, Avigdor Lieberman claims he has no intention of leaving

Avigdor Lieberman, whose ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu is a key member of Israel's ruling coalition, on Wednesday said he had no intention of leaving government a day after the Kadima party withdrew.

Despite differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over plans to expand the military conscription law to include more ultra-Orthodox Jews, the foreign minister said he had no intention of bolting the coalition.

"We won't leave the coalition, we are going to continue to fight from within the government," he told Israel's army radio.

Lieberman also said his party would on Wednesday present a draft bill on universal conscription to parliament which would compel all Israelis, including the ultra-Orthodox and members of Israel's Arab minority, to either serve in the army or perform some alternative form of national service.

The proposal is unlikely to find any backing from Netanyahu or members of his rightwing Likud party who want a much more gradual approach to expanding the draft law.

Although Lieberman admitted that the bill had little chance of winning a majority, he said that Netanyahu would eventually be forced to come round to his position under pressure from public opinion ahead of elections which are due in October 2013.

On Tuesday, Shaul Mofaz pulled his centre-right Kadima faction out of the coalition just 70 days after joining it following a dispute over the universal draft law.

Until then, Netanyahu had headed a broad coalition with a majority of 94 in the 120-seat Knesset. Although the departure of Kadima reduced the coalition by 28 seats, it still retains a majority of 66.

Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu, the third largest faction in parliament, holds 15 seats and is a key member of Netanyahu's coalition.

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