Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers wanted to water it down. Mr. Lieberman refused to compromise.
It may have been a ploy to grab attention, but it struck a nerve. Almost overnight, Mr. Lieberman’s support doubled, and he became an unlikely hero to liberals.
For years, says Jason Pearlman, a veteran right-wing political operative, the two main axes of Israeli politics, religion and the Palestinians, had been “zip-tied” together. Mr. Netanyahu’s longtime coalition was just such a merger — right-wing voters, who favored a hard line toward the Palestinians, and the ultra-Orthodox, who promised a bloc vote in exchange for concessions on religious issues.
“What Lieberman did was to snap those zip-ties, popping the axes back apart,” Mr. Pearlman said.
Secular and liberal leaders from the left and center responded by effectively joining forces with the right-wing Mr. Lieberman against the prime minister’s ultra-Orthodox and religious-nationalist allies.
These rebels say that the mushrooming ultra-Orthodox population, with its unemployed religious students and large families subsidized by the state, is imposing excessive fiscal and social burdens on other Israelis. They are demanding more pluralistic options for marriages and conversions.