Ultra-Orthodox youths in line outside the Jerusalem draft office
Ultra-Orthodox teens lining up outside the Jerusalem draft office, 2009. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Ilan Assayag
Eugene Kandel Photo by Ilan Assayag

Prof. Eugene Kandel on Saturday publicly presented the main points of his proposal for distributing the burden of military service more equally. The proposal was submitted last week to Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi by Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu during the latter’s coalition negotiations with the two parties.

The program calls for drafting more than 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men up to the age of 24, while offering government incentives to these conscripts and the yeshivas from which they they were drafted. At the same time, the state would deny allowances to Haredi men who falsely claimed to be yeshiva students in order to receive government benefits and avoid army service.

Kandel, the head of the National Economic Council, rolled out the bullet points of his proposal on Israel’s “Meet the Press,” broadcast Saturday night on television's Channel 2.

Kandel dismissed the main points of Yesh Atid’s plan for drafting Haredim, which would include all but a few hundred ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, saying, “I suggest focusing on the Haredim who don’t study but who nevertheless receive government benefits and service exemptions.” Kandel added, “With 20 percent effort we could bring 70 percent of Haredi men into meaningful service in the Israel Defense Forces and into the labor market within five years.”

MK Yael German ‏(Yesh Atid‏) rejected Kandel’s proposal Saturday, saying that it did not include a solution to the issue of equalizing the burden. “The inequality still exists,” she said, going on to say that the only change since the establishment of the state is that the number of Haredim who do not share the burden equally has grown from 400 to more than 60,000.

MK Uri Orbach ‏(Habayit Hayehudi‏) said Saturday, “I believe it’s possible to find a compromise formula that will recognize the sensitivities of all the parties.”

Meanwhile, Likud figures close to the party’s coalition negotiation team attacked Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett on Saturday.

“Throughout the campaign season, Bennett promised his voters a government comprising the nationalist camp and headed by [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” a source said. “He also put up billboards with pictures of him and Netanyahu together, to illustrate their cooperation. But since the election Bennett is doing all he can to prevent the formation of a government consisting of the nationalist camp, to which he had committed himself. He forged an alliance with [Yesh Atid chairman] Yair Lapid that rejects the Haredim. With the Haredim it will be impossible to create the kind of government [Bennett] himself promised.”

Also on Saturday, outgoing Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon continued his tear against his erstwhile party chairman and political patron, former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “He did not earn the trust of the international community and therefore should not have a second term as foreign minister,” Ayalon said at a public talk sponsored by the South Sharon Regional Council Saturday.

“If after a four-year term this is the result, it would be better if [Lieberman] became finance minister,” Ayalon said, adding, “I supported [Lieberman] because it was part of my job.”

He also claimed that Lieberman had tried to push through inappropriate Foreign Service appointments, adding, “I resisted the pressure and convinced Lieberman” that the appointments should not be made.

Ayalon will be a witness for the prosecution in Lieberman’s trial on charges of fraud and breach of trust, which begins Sunday. The outgoing deputy foreign minister told police investigators that Lieberman was actively involved in the appointment of Ze’ev Ben Aryeh as Israel’s ambassador to Latvia, an accusation denied by Lieberman. Lieberman allegedly sought to secure the Latvia post for Ben Aryeh, the former ambassador to Belarus, as a reward for giving Lieberman confidential information about a police investigation against him there.

“Everything I have to say” about the Ben Aryeh affair “I told the police and will tell the court later,” Ayalon said on Saturday.

In other coalition news, Likud sources said Netanyahu offered Labor Party chairman Shelly Yacimovich the finance portfolio in a meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence on Friday but she refused. Yacimovich stressed after the meeting that even pressure from within Labor would not push her into a Netanyahu-led government.