What was Benjamin Netanyahu thinking six weeks ago when he announced the formation of a committee to find a replacement for the Tal Law that exempts the ultra-Orthodox from military service? He must have assumed the panel chairman, Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, would play by some common rules - whitewash, dilute, stall. Anything to get home safely and remain in the cozy lap of the coalition.
And what was Shaul Mofaz thinking when he hung the little prestige he had left on the committee, making it a condition in the coalition agreement? That Netanyahu had decided to go with the secular majority who served in the army and contributed to the state, against the draft-evading, idle ultra-Orthodox?
Both, as it turns out, were wrong. Netanyahu discovered Plesner was too hard working, too thorough, too persistent. Mofaz found out that despite Kadima's entering the government, Netanyahu once again chose his "natural partners."
Netanyahu is thinking about the next elections. He needs 61 MKs to recommend him in order to form a government. Who will recommend him? Kadima, which may fall apart? Or Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beiteinu?
It's not clear where the latter stands. Lieberman would never agree to the alternative Netanyahu wants for the Tal Law. But if no alternative is found by August 1, the Tal Law expires and 60,000 Haredi men will be declared deserters. The law, however, does not make the same declaration about the Arabs. Lieberman would never agree to this either. How will Netanyahu get out of this mess?
The next four weeks are critical. Mofaz does not want to quit, but the clock is ticking. Unless a solution is found, Kadima, feeling betrayed, will quit at the beginning of August, whether Mofaz wants to or not.
Yesterday Netanyahu spoke to Mofaz on the phone. "Let's find a solution together," he said. Mofaz asked him not to do anything before discussing the committee's report tomorrow.
Shortly afterward, at Kadima's faction meeting, its MKs and Mofaz were astonished to see on the their smartphones that Netanyahu had disbanded the Plesner committee. Humiliated and furious, Mofaz gave Netanyahu an ultimatum: adopt the committee's conclusions or we'll quit.
Scathing last words. Like those he said in 2005, that "one does not leave one's home," two days before quitting the Likud. Or in 2008, about "taking time out from politics" and returning a week later. Or that he'd never sit with Netanyahu "the liar" in the coalition.
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