Netanyahu: Israel Soon to Require National Service for Israeli Arabs

ברק רביד - צרובה
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he intends on setting into motion a new law that would include mandatory civilian national service for Israeli Arabs.

The statement came after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened on Saturday that a vote on a replacement to the Tal Law, which allows full-time yeshiva students to defer national service, would decide the date of Israel's elections.

The anti-Tal Law protest camp in Tel Aviv.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Lieberman advocated for a mandatory service law that would require the enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox, Israeli Arabs and all other Israeli citizens. He warned that his Yisrael Beiteinu party had exhausted its obligations to Netanyahu's coalition.

Following Lieberman's threats, Netanyahu met with representatives of the anti-Tal Law protest movement, called the "sucker's camp," and echoed the foreign minister's statements that there must be a new law that would require Israeli Arabs to perform national service.

According to a statement by the Prime Minister's Office, Netanyahu told the protesters that he intends on changing the distribution of the burden of service in Israel.

"Whatever was is not what will be," he said. "I know that there are many opportunists that voted in favor of the automatic extension of the Tal Law, but I am not one of them. The Tal Law will be replaced with a different law – a more equal and correct one – and I am the one who will bring it for a vote before the Knesset."

The statement did not mention the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Netanyahu added that the new law would require the enlistment of Israeli Arabs and said that the change will necessitate a larger budget.

On Saturday, Lieberman said on Channel 2's "Meet the Press" that Israel's political system will know whether or not it's heading for early elections following the vote on a replacement to the so-called Tal Law on May 9.

The foreign minister's comments came hours after newly anointed opposition leader and Kadima Chairperson Shaul Mofaz urged Netanyahu to move up the general elections to October of this year.

Later on Sunday, Netanyahu said during a meeting with Likud ministers that the question of whether Israel will hold early elections will soon be clarified.

"There are speculations about early elections but there are still no conclusions," he said.

Netanyahu said that the opposition parties have been competing with each other and trying to show that they are willing to enter elections, but claimed that it is not true.

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat said during Sunday's cabinet meeting that Netanyahu said he is speaking to parties within the coalition, saying that "next week it will be decided when elections will be held."

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