Netanyahu, Barak Fall Out Over New IDF Draft Law

At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu rejects Barak's request to have the ministry of defense draft the bill.

A fierce argument broke out in Sunday's cabinet meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The latter demanded that the Defense Ministry assume responsibility for the formulation of a new law regulating enlistment to the IDF, but Netanyahu flat out rejected this.

During a debate on the law that would replace the Tal Law, which expires at the end of the month, Barak said that the issue should not be handled by Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon, but by the relevant ministry: "A law dealing with transportation would be formulated by the Transportation Ministry, and therefore a bill dealing with conscription should be the responsibility of the Defense Ministry," Barak said. "I understand there was a coalition agreement with Kadima, and they wanted to have a say in the matter, but since that effort failed, the issue should be handled by the Defense Ministry," Barak added.

Netanyahu rejected Barak's request: "this is a national issue that doesn't concern only the IDF," he said, "I'm the prime minister and my decision is that the bill will be formulated according to the guidelines sketched by Ya'alon." Netanyahu said that Ya'alon would consult the relevant ministers during the next few days, and that the government would vote on the bill next Sunday.

The High Court of Justice ruled last February that the Tal law, which exempted many ultra-Orthodox men from military service was unconstitutional, and would not be extended beyond August 1. Kadima left the coalition last week after talks on a new bill reached a dead end.

Vice Prime Minister, Moshe Ya'alon, presented the outline for the bill he had prepared. According to his plan, the age of exemption for ultra-Orthodox men, today set at 28, will be gradually lowered. At first, the age of exemption will be set at 26. The objective set for ultra-Orthodox enlistment is 6,000 by 2016. The objective set for Arab civilian service is 5,000 by 2016.

Ya'alon said that "since a bill couldn't be drafted with Kadima, a new proposal is now being labored over. The next stage will be a government decision that will be handed over to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, and once a majority for it is garnered in the Knesset it will be brought to a vote."