Likud-Beiteinu Attempts to Woo Lapid With New IDF Conscription Plan

But as coalition talks go nowhere, Likud sources say the real problem is that Yesh Atid doesn't want to sit in a coalition with ultra-Orthodox parties.

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As coalition talks continue, Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu is attempting to woo Yesh Atid with a new proposal that would enable the Israeli public to share the burden for Israel Defense Forces service.

The two main prospective candidates for partnering with Netanyahu – Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid and Naftali Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi – are presenting a common front on matters including a new law requiring citizens to share the military burden equally, whether through drafting the ultra-Orthodox or requiring some other form of national service.

The Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu negotiating team on Monday presented Yesh Atid with a new proposal, drafted by Prof. Eugene Kandel, the head of the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister’s Office. The formula outlines various strategies for conscripting ultra-Orthodox men and integrating them into the workforce.

The plan – whereby within five years 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men up to the age of 26 would be conscripted – is similar to the one put forward by Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The new initiative also includes a series of sanctions against young ultra-Orthodox males who do not agree to be conscripted, and against yeshivas that do not fulfill the conscription quotas set for them. It does not, however, stipulate a quota for the total number of ultra-Orthodox males who will be conscripted each year.

Yesh Atid has asked to study the document in depth, but sources in the party say they are doubtful their differences can be bridged.

Likud sources say they see another problem. "The formula for sharing the burden is secondary," a senior Likud source said on Monday. "The main problem is that Yesh Atid doesn't want to sit in a coalition with the Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] parties. If Yesh Atid decides that it will join a government with the Haredim, it is possible to also pave the way on the matter of the law for sharing the burden."

"It could certainly be that we will have no choice but be forced to establish a government according to Lapid's conditions," the Likud official added. “At the moment of truth, each of the three leaders [Netanyahu, Bennett and Lapid] will have to make a decision about what they intend to do. Bennett and Lapid will have to decide whether they are joining the Netanyahu government separately, under agreed conditions, together with the ultra-Orthodox, or whether they will continue to present a united front and risk sitting in the opposition.”

Lapid said on Monday that he expected the coalition negotiations to carry on for weeks. "We are in the midst of negotiations – 99.99 percent of what appears in the media is not really happening," he said at a Yesh Atid meeting in the Knesset. He said there had been two excellent meetings with Netanyahu so far, but the negotiations are not yet dealing with allocating ministerial positions.

“At the moment there is no discussion of portfolios," Lapid said. "All the reports about the distribution of portfolios that you read in the media are speculations that aren’t connected to us.”

'A businesslike' meeting with Bennett

Netanyahu also met with Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett on Monday at the Kirya compound in Tel Aviv, in the presence of Netanyahu's attorney David Shimron.

The atmosphere was tense, sources involved in the meeting said, although they added that the media was exaggerating the level of Netanyahu's anger toward Bennett. (The latter worked in Netanyahu's bureau between 2006-08.)

Likud issued a press release after the meeting describing it as "businesslike," unlike the descriptions of Netanyahu's meeting with Lapid, which was noted as being conducted in a very good atmosphere.

Elsewhere, Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich denied reports on Monday that she will join a Netanyahu government in return for being appointed finance minister. She called media reports baseless rumors.

“Since this morning,” Yacimovich said Monday, “there have been rumors to the effect that if I were offered one portfolio or another, Labor would join the government. There is absolutely no basis for this. Anyone who is insisting on making this into a fight over portfolios is mistaken. It isn’t the portfolios – it’s the path. The Labor Party isn’t going to be the operations contractor for a Netanyahu government.”

Yacimovich noted however that she intends to support government efforts to advance the peace process and the interests of the State of Israel.

Meanwhile, the Coalition of Women for Peace and Security, consisting of several dozen women’s organizations, sent a letter on Monday to the prime minister and the heads of the various Knesset factions demanding appropriate representation for women in the government. The organizations demanded that women be equally represented as Knesset committee heads.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, center left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the swearing-in ceremony of the 19th Knesset in Jerusalem, Feb. 5, 2013.Credit: Emil Salman

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