01:43 - Source: CNN
Netanyahu: How he rose to the top
Jerusalem CNN  — 

Avoiding a coalition collapse that would have sent the country to snap elections a year and a half early, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forged an agreement between rival parties in his government Tuesday on a key piece of legislation.

After days of political brinksmanship, the Israeli Parliament’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation has agreed that a preliminary vote on a bill exempting ultra-Orthodox Jewish students from serving in the army will be free, meaning that parties can vote any way they want without it being a test of loyalty to the government.

The free vote allowed the party of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who strongly opposes the exemption, to vote against the legislation. It also removes the possibility that Netanyahu will need to sack any members of his government, a move that would have been seen as making Parliament’s dissolution all but inevitable.

The bill passed in its first reading, 59-38. It requires two more readings before becoming law, but those are likely to take place after the upcoming Knesset recess.

The internal machinations of Israel’s government have been dominating the country’s TV and newspapers for days, with many observers believing that Netanyahu was attracted by the prospect of an early general election. Opinion polls showed strong support for him, raising the likelihood he could secure a fresh popular mandate, even while he faces swirling corruption allegations.