In Surprise Move

PM Calls Likud Debate Over Plesner Recommendations on Haredi Enlistment

In what looks like a move toward compromise, Netanyahu to meet with Likud faction and Kadima leader Mofaz on Sunday; Tel Aviv protest over ultra-Orthodox draft crisis to take place Saturday.

Just hours ahead of a Tel Aviv protest over the ultra-Orthodox enlistment crisis that has engulfed Israeli politics, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would debate the recommendations of the Plesner Committee, tasked with replacing the law governing Haredi enlistment, with his Likud faction on Sunday -  after he disbanded the committee earlier this week.

The Prime Minster's Office also announced that Netanyahu would meet with Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz after the Likud debate, in signs that the coalition was headed for compromise over the national service issue. Last week, Mofaz threatened to leave the governing coalition over the national service law after Netanyahu disbanded the Plesner Committee.

Kadima joined the premier's cabinet in May based on an agreement that the government would formulate a new ultra-Orthodox enlistment law to replace the Tal Law, struck down as unconstitutional by the High Court of Justice in February.

It also looked like the compromise would be reached with the mediation of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who said on Saturday that he "welcomes this show of responsibility and the progress in contacts between the prime minister and the minister [Mofaz]."

According to Barak, the new law is, "the beginning of a historic change in Israeli society, to strengthen national unity and fair and equitable distribution of the burden of national service." Barak added that it was important to make every effort to pass the law before the deadline set by the High Court to replace the Tal Law.

It looks likely that the Plesner recommendations will be adopted subject to a number of changes, including personal sanctions against any secular or ultra-Orthodox Israelis who do not perform national service. Additionally, the law governing Israeli Arabs and national service will be completed at a later stage, despite the position of coalition member Yisrael Beitenu, who left the Plesner Committee out of a disagreement over this issue last week.

It was still not clear on Saturday whether Mofaz would participate in the evening protest, following Netanyahu and Barak's announcements. On Friday, Mofaz said: "This is a shared struggle on the future and nature of Israel. I will be at the protest because this struggle is justified, and a change is called for."

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, Jerusalem, May 8, 2012.