Yisrael Beitenu, Habayit Hayehudi Leave Committee Tasked With Replacing Tal Law

The Plesner Committee is tasked with drafting a replacement for the law, which exempts yeshiva students from from mandatory IDF service.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Military service for ultra-Orthodox men was the focus of the proposals being drawn up by the Plesner Committee, but it was the issue of drafting Israeli Arabs that led to the latest coalition crisis. Yesterday coalition partners Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi announced their withdrawal from the committee, which is formulating recommendations for civilian and military service for all Israeli citizens.

The parties said their decision was based on the committee's refusal to accommodate their demand to draft all Israeli Arab citizens when they turn 18.

In fact, the Plesner Committee yesterday agreed to adopt a model of universal service that would also include the Arab community, but it did not go far enough for Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi.

The committee said yesterday that based on figures from the National Service Administration, 6,000 young Israeli Arabs will be performing either military or nonmilitary national service annually by 2016.

The committee will also recommend the establishment of a panel to thoroughly examine the long-term implications of mandating universal service.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke last night with Arab Knesset members about what he described as equal sharing of the national burden. MKs Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash ), Jamal Zahalka (Balad ) and Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al ), all of whom are chairmen of their respective parties, confirmed the conversations.

All reported hearing similar messages from Netanyahu, who stressed that while he understood their opposition to serving in the military the national burden must be distributed more equitably, and that meant national nonmilitary service for Israeli Arabs.

The Arab MKs told Haaretz that they had rejected his appeal, calling it a product of his coalition concerns. They told him they still oppose the mandate of the Plesner Committee.

"The Committee's decision favoring the Israeli-Arab public, and not requiring them to carry out civil service, goes against equality in the burden of service," Yisrael Beiteinu said.

The party announced that it would introduce its own legislative proposal - which would provide for equal service for all sectors in society - to a vote in the Knesset.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of HaBayit HaYehudi, Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, also informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that, "in light of the emerging conclusions of the Committee regarding non-integration of Arabs in service of the country, I do not see room for further partnership for HaBayit HaYehudi in the committee."

The Plesner Committee said in response to Yisrael Beiteinu that, "This is a populist move from a party that knows how to advocate for an equal burden of national service, but has no plans to initiate serious steps to promote it."

The office of committee chairman MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima ) stated that Lieberman "announced that he would stay in the government under any condition, whatever the conclusions of the committee. This is a political game for beginners, transparent and unimaginative."

The opposition also attacked the announcement. Labor MK Isaac Herzog said, "Netanyahu is losing control of the coalition. The porridge he cooked up in the form of the committee, which was born in political sin, has gone sticky and fermented."

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman holds a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, not seen, during their meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, May 20, 2012.Credit: AP

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