Ultra-Orthodox in IDF |

Mofaz Threatens to Break Up Israel's Unity Cabinet, as Netanyahu Disbands Panel on Haredi IDF Service

Premier cites Plesner committee's inability to form a proposal that would pass in the Knesset; opposition official: Kadima has long since lost its reason for being.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disbanded a state-sanctioned committee charged with forming a new law on drafting ultra-Orthodox men into the Israel Defense Forces on Monday, in an apparent blow to coalition partner Kadima, which joined the premier's cabinet based on an agreement that the government would formulate a new Haredi enlistment law.

The committee, headed by Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, was dissolved after a reported disagreement over the wording of the new bill, which was geared to replace the so-called Tal Law after that was struck down as unconstitutional by the High Court.

Last week, coalition partners Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi announced their withdrawal from the committee, over what they said was the the committee's refusal to accommodate their demand to draft all Israeli Arab citizens when they turn 18.

In fact, the Plesner Committee at the time 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.

That departure was not the last from the panel, with noted attorney Jacob Weinroth, who served as the Haredi representative, leaving the committee over the threat to use personal sanctions against ultra-Orthodox men who avoid military service.

On Monday, however, Netanyahu announced the final dissolution of the so-called Plesner committee, saying, "Unfortunately, the committee could not reach an agreed-upon formulation and it could not form a recommendation that would garner a majority in the Knesset."

Netanyahu added that he would summon the heads of the parties in his coalition later this week, in an attempt to formulate a proposal that could win the parliament's support.

"If we can't reach such a solution by August 1, the IDF will have to enlist according to its needs, while taking the various publics into considerations, in order to prevent a split in the country," the premier added.

Despite being notified of the end of the panel's work, Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, who joined the coalition with his Kadima party in order to bring about an update of the Tal Law, failed to mention Netanyahu's announcement in a meeting of Kadima members.

"The recommendations of the Plesner committee will be presented by the end of the week to the prime minister and to myself," Mofaz said, adding that the panel's work would continue.

Following the meeting, however, Mofaz criticized the premier's announcement, hinting at a possible coalition crisis: "I reject the prime minister's announcement and give full backing to the committee headed by MK Plesner."

"If the prime minister wishes not to turn toward the required direction, the unity government will reach its end," he added.

A senior political official said that it "was possible to arrive at an understanding with the Haredim, one that would allow for the formation of a law that could stand until the Tal Law's expiration date," adding that "distance [between the sides] was significantly reduced with regard to the issue of personal sanctions."

According to the official, Netanyahu significantly threatened the Haredi side on Monday, by making it clear that if they did not meet him halfway he would adopt a "service for all" bill by early August.

Meretz chairwoman Zehave Gal-On said in reponse to the dissolution of the panel, "Mofaz can withdraw from the coalition, but that doesn't mean we'll accept him in the opposition."

"Kadima has long lost its reason for bring and when it crawled into the Netanyahu government, using the formulation of a new Tal Law as pretext," Gal-On added.

Late last week, Netanyahu said that he would only support a law over IDF enlistment and national service if it applies to every Israeli citizen, including Israel's Arab population and the ultra-Orthodox.

"I will not bring a law to a vote which does not also require equal enlistment for the Ultra-Orthodox and Arabs," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu was responding to the news on Thursday that the Plesner committee, tasked with drafting a replacement for the Tal Law that exempts yeshiva students from mandatory military service, will recommend that every Israeli citizen who is not mandated to carry out military service should carry out civil service, but that this should be only implemented gradually.

Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands with Kadima head Shaul Mofaz during joint news conference, Jerusalem, May 8, 2012.Credit: Reuters



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