The first thing many of us felt after Kadima's departure from the government was that a historic opportunity had been missed. But from a more sober perspective, the words of Hebrew poet Rachel (Bluwstein ) can better describe the affair: "Perhaps these things never happened."

Perhaps there never was a realistic chance to achieve equality in sharing the burden in military service; perhaps it was only a dream. Our sages set down a principle: "The end proves the beginning," and in this case it really can be said that the end of the story - Likud's unwillingness to support a law that gradually ensures the Haredim's full integration into Israeli society, including equality in sharing the security burden - proves its beginning.

It proves that from the beginning, Likud wasn't thinking about abandoning its agreement - not with the ultra-Orthodox, many of whom want to serve - but with the ultra-Orthodox rabbinical leaders and political wheeler-dealers. Many Haredim want to integrate into the job market and understand that doing so involves military service.

Those who object with all their might are the Haredi rabbis and yeshiva heads, and in their wake the politicians of Shas and United Torah Judaism, who bow to the former's dictates. The opposition stems from a worldview on the State of Israel and the need to keep Haredi society isolated, and from yeshivas' economic and practical interests. It has nothing to do with recognizing the value of Torah study.

Proof that Likud was unwilling to get involved in a head-on clash with the Haredi parties can be found in the unbearable lightness with which Likud leaders are adopting the Haredi leaders' false and foolish slogans.

For example, coalition chairman Zeev Elkin promised, in a closed meeting with Likud's Haredi faction, that "we won't let the world of Torah be undermined." It's as if there were a connection between protecting the world of Torah and tens of thousands of Haredim evading their religious - not only civic - obligation to serve in the Israel Defense Forces and protect Israel from "the enemy that is attacking you" and which wants to destroy us. There is no greater hilul hashem - desecration of God's name.

There is a tremendous world of Torah on IDF bases, in which students of hesder yeshivas (which combine Torah study with military service ), and graduates of the pre-army mechinot (which combine Torah study with preparation for military service ) find time at ungodly hours to study a page of Talmud. Otherwise they spend day and night protecting Israel's security. Once and for all we have to expose the lie that there is a contradiction between Torah and service in the IDF.

For example, the prime minister's deputy, a former chief of staff and commander of the Sayeret Matkal commando unit, can repeat the absurd fiction spread by Haredi politicians that drafting the Haredim means putting people in prison for studying Torah - as in czarist Russia or during the time of Rabbi Akiva under the ancient Romans. There are Haredim who believe that Israel is no different from other countries, so they don't say the prayer for the welfare of the state - but is that Likud's view as well?

Don't let them fool you. The test for a law that ensures equality is the draft age. Anyone who says the Haredim will be drafted at 26 or even 23 is saying they won't be drafted - it's a perfect example of "Isra-bluff." We can accommodate the Haredim through gradual implementation, with split service and by postponing service for two years, but in the end every young man who is fit to serve must report to the army by age 20.

There never was a chance, so it wasn't missed. But eventually there will be a chance. Israelis will not give up on the principle, and on the Jewish and ethical value of sharing the burden equally.