Mofaz Delivers Ultimatum to Netanyahu Over Enlistment Law

Plesner Committee recommends 80% of draft-age ultra-Orthodox be enlisted by 2016; no specific rules for Israeli Arab enlistment.

Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz threatened on Wednesday to leave the governing coalition unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embraces the Plesner Committee's recommendations on enlisting ultra-Orthodox Jews and Israeli Arabs to the army or civilian national service.

"The report is the result of the first major test of our partnership with the prime minister and the Likud," Mofaz said at a Kadima party meeting. "I expect the prime minister to adopt the committee's decisions. This is a condition for us to remain in the government. The ball is in Netanyahu's court, and we're talking about a number of days."

Mofaz said that Netanyahu violated the coalition agreement when he decided to disband the Plesner Committee earlier this week. The Plesner Committee nevertheless issued its recommendations on Wednesday.

The committee, chaired by Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, was appointed to draft legislation requiring ultra-Orthodox Jews and Israeli Arabs to do either military or civilian national service. Earlier this week, Netanyahu dismissed the panel because most coalition parties have lost faith in it.

New legislation is required because the Tal Law, which governs the existing system of Haredi draft exemptions, was ruled unconstitutional by the High Court of Justice and expires on August 1.

Kadima joined the Netanyahu-led coalition under the condition that an alternative to the Tal Law be formulated.

The findings by the Plesner Committee determined that about 80 percent of draft-age Haredi Jews would perform either military or civilian national service by 2016.The military service track would last 24 months and the civilian national service track would last 18 months.

Those who did not show up for enlistment would be subject to sanctions, including fines and possibly even criminal punishment. Also, Haredi draft-dodgers would lose property tax and housing benefits, as well as educational scholarships. There would be no deferment of service past the age of 22, except for a group of 1,500 students annually. The Israel Defense Forces and the civilian service would develop and expand service tracks to meet recruitment targets. Shortened army service, which is now customary, would be canceled.

As far as Israeli-Arab enlistment, Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman has demanded that all draft-age Israeli-Arabs – numbering about 30,000 – perform national service.

The Plesner Committee said the principle of "service for all" should apply to the Israeli-Arab sector as well as to Israeli Jews, but it did not formulate directions for incorporating Israeli-Arabs into civilian service.

The committee said such rules should be formulated by the end of this year and that the legislation should be completed by March 2013.

Shaul Mofaz
Tomer Appelbaum
Yohanan Plesner July 4, 2012 (Michal Fattal)
Michal Fattal