Netanyahu (left) and Mofaz.
Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Shaul Mofaz. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of Kadima Shaul Mofaz announced on Tuesday that his Kadima party is leaving the governing coalition following disagreements over a universal draft law.

"Netanyahu has chosen to side with the draft-dodgers," Mofaz said after a Kadima meeting. "I have reached an understanding that the prime minister has not left us a choice and so we have responded."

He added that "there is an attempt here to bypass principles and confuse the public. It doesn’t fool me and it doesn’t fool the public."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu submitted early Tuesday afternoon what he termed a new and far-reaching legislative proposal intended to resolve the quarrel between Likud and Kadima regarding the wording of a new law which would equalize the burden of army service. The document was forwarded by Netanyahu confidant attorney David Shimron to attorney Alon Gellert, who has represented Kadima in talks between the parties. Sources close to the negotiations claimed that the proposal is intended to partly accept Kadima's demand that Haredim up to age 23 be drafted.

According to the Netanyahu proposal, the oldest age at which ultra-Orthodox would be drafted into the army will be 23. At the same time, incentives will be granted to Haredim who enlist at age 18. However, based on the Netanyahu proposal, young Haredim would be able to continue to push off their draft: Anyone who does not enlist until age 23 will not be able to enlist into the army, but only into an operational civil service that would include firefighting units, Magen David Adom, the Israel Police and the Prisons Service.

"Netanyahu thinks this is a proposal on the basis of which it is possible to reach agreement and bring about a historic and responsible change, the likes of which have not been seen since the establishment of the state," said sources involved in the negotiations.

Mofaz rejected the prime minister's proposal, which was submitted this morning. "Based on the proposal that was rejected, between the ages 18-23, for a lengthy period of time, only 50 percent of target subjects for the military draft would be drafted. Whereas 50 percent of those subject to the draft at ages 23-26 would be directed toward civil service," Mofaz explained. "Netanyahu's proposal contradicts the ruling of the High Court of Justice, does not conform to the principle of equality, is disproportionate and does not meet the tests of effectiveness that are set down in the High Court's ruling, or the principles of the committee on equalizing the burden of IDF service. Let's make this clear: We are referring to enlistment targets that do not include all of those eligible for the draft, and we are therefore countenancing a 'word- laundering' that in effect leaves the situation as it was."

A senior Kadima official stated in response that the proposal is complete rubbish. "This is the same proposal that has been sent to us before, one time through (Ya'alon) and another time through (Ze'ev) Elkin. There is no compulsory draft here up to age 23."

On Tuesday, Shas blamed Kadima, stating that the centrist party had no desire to reach an agreement from the beginning.

“Now, it’s clear as day. We offered creative options, we wanted to reach a solution,” said a senior party official. “We were ready to talk about sanctions, we were ready to talk about an exemption age. All the proposals that were on the table were extreme, but it is clear that Kadima wouldn’t agree to them, because Kadima did not want to reach an agreement. Today that was proven. Kadima members didn’t agree with a single thing said,” continued the party official.

On Monday, Netanyahu expressed optimism regarding the two parties' ability to formulate a joint legislative bill. Mofaz refused to say if he is set to leave the coalition, only stating, "We still face lengthy negotiations."

Chairman of the Yisrael Beiteinu faction Avigdor Lieberman announced Monday that his party had received an irregular sanction by the coalition executive to support the draft law initiated by the party, even though the coalition had decided to oppose the law unilaterally. The law will be put up for the vote on Thursday.

In the past few days, feverish contacts have been held in an attempt to instigate a splintering of the party, such that seven faction members identified with the right would link with the Netanyahu coalition following the party's withdrawal from the coalition. Nonetheless, this number of MKs has not yet been reached. In the meantime, neither has the possible withdrawal of another group, supporters of Tzipi Livni, been resolved; such a group would serve as the vanguard of a new centrist party in the Knesset.