Amid Coalition Crisis

Netanyahu's Likud Approves Report on IDF Draft, Urges Debate on Arab Service

Vote takes place days after prime minister disbands so-called Plesner committee; PM: Everyone must carry the burden; new bill to be presented to cabinet in one week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party unanimously approved the recommendations of a committee formed to draft a new Haredi enlistment law on Sunday, days after the premier ordered the panel's dissolution due to what he said was its inability to reach a suitable compromise.

The recommendations of the so-called Plesner committee, headed by Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, were ratified in full, with one of the panel's recommendations, which had called for a postponement of the discussion on the issue of Israeli Arab military and national service.

Instead, Likud members vote to change that part of the panel's report, necessitating an immediate discussion of Israeli Arab service.

Netanyahu and Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz agreed on the formation of a team meant to formulate a bill on the matter, to be presented to the cabinet next week.

The team will include Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Plesner, and will be attended by representatives from the Defense Ministry, Finance Ministry, Justice Ministry, as well as from the civil service.

Speaking at the meeting, Netanyahu said that his government would pass a new law that would "gradually raise the number of those who serve" in Israel's military.

"Everyone must carry the burden. We will provide positive incentives to those who serve and negative incentives to draft dodgers. The draft dodger will not receive like the one who serves," the premier said in a Likud faction meeting.

The prime minister said that the new policy would be "done responsibly in order to preserve the unity of the nation," calling it a "historic change."

Netanyahu's statements came the morning after some 20,000 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv demanding a universal draft which would include ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arab Israelis. The rally was attended by several politicians and senior IDF reserve officers.

MK Carmel Shama, the only Likud MK to attend Saturday night's rally, said all Israelis should be required to perform either military or civilian service, with sanctions imposed on those who do not.

"With all due respect to the alliance with the Haredim, the alliance with the future of the State of Israel, our values and our conscience comes first and is much more important," he said.

MK Danny Danon called the Plessner committee's conclusions "a political bribe by Mofaz to Kadima's Arab voters." Claiming that Israeli Arabs make up a quarter of Kadima's registered members, Danon said that "full service by Israeli Arabs" should be a condition for accepting the committee's principles.

Speaking at the weekly meeting of Likud ministers, following the vote, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said that the formation of the Likud-Kadima unity cabinet was instrumental in the push toward a universal IDF draft, saying that "there were many governments in the past that may have wanted to do it, and didn't have the political plan."

"The prime minister's decision two months ago to form a unity government allowed this. The decisions involved preferring the national interest over party interest. IT was clear that going for elections would have been comfortable for Likud," Sa'ar said.

Benjamin Netanyahu - Flash 90 - 1.7.2012
Flash 90
Haredi soldier - Alex Levac.
Alex Levac