IDF Enlistment for All: An Ongoing Debate

A political maelstrom was set off earlier this year, when the Supreme Court struck down a law regulating Haredi army service.

The current revival of the debate concerning the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox and Arab youths to the Israel Defense Forces was launched after the Supreme Court struck down the so-called Tal Law earlier this year.

The law, ratified in 2002, allowed the continued postponing of yeshiva students' military service, and officially expires on August 1, 2012.

In early May, Kadima, the largest opposition party, joined a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with Kadima head Shau Mofaz stating that formulating a replacement for the defunct Tal Law was one of the main reasons for the move.

Following the formation of the unity cabinet, Netanyahu ordered a government-sanctioned panel, headed by Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, geared at formulating a compromise between the representatives of the various factions.

However, following various disagreements, including several walkouts, the prime minister eventually opted to dissolve the committee.

The move sparked a coalitional crisis, with Mofaz threatening to leave the unity cabinet if Netanyahu does not permit the panel's continued work. A major protest was schedualed to take place in Tel Aviv to demand universal enlistment.

Ahead of the protest, the PM ordered the Likud party to convene and debate the Plesner committee's recommendations.

Eventually, about 20,000 gathered Tel Aviv to demand that ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis participate in the draft. Among the demonstrators were politicians and senior reserve officers.

One day after the protest, Netanyahu's Likud approved the Plesner recommendations, with the exception of one clause which had urged the state to postpone debate on service by Israeli Arab citizens. Instead, Likud MKs demanded that the state immediately begin a discussion on the issue.

Later that week, a meeting of the new committee convened by Netanyahu to create new IDF draft legislation focusing on ultra-Orthodox recruits, broke down due to an intense argument between Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud).