Ultra-Orthodox, Arabs refuse to join equal draft law committee (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Ophir Bar-Zohar 05/22/12)
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There were no official ultra-Orthodox or Arab representatives present
on Monday at the first meeting of the committee tasked with crafting
a law governing the draft.
The new law will replace the interim Tal Law, which grants draft
deferrals to the ultra-Orthodox. The High Court of Justice has found
that law to be unconstitutional and ruled that it cannot be extended
once it expires July 31.
Monday´s meeting was a "historic moment as well as an opportunity to
change the agenda in the State of Israel," said Vice Prime Minister
The committee hearings will enable the recently expanded government
to carry out the first clause of its coalition agreement, Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the opening of the meeting.
"Two weeks ago we were in this hall, Shaul Mofaz and I, to announce
the establishment of the broad-based unity government," he said. "The
first clause in the unity deal was to bring about an alternative to
the Tal Law."
But though the new law will primarily affect the ultra-Orthodox, by
stating when and how Haredi men will be expected to join the army
(Haredi women will continue to be exempt ), there are no official
ultra-Orthodox representatives on the panel.
That´s because the two Haredi parties, the Sephardi Shas party and
the Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism, have refused to send
representatives; they don´t want to be seen as cooperating with the
government on an issue that their voters deeply oppose.
However, prominent lawyer Jacob Weinroth, who is serving on the
committee, is widely considered to be the Haredi community´s
Similarly, Arab MKs and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee said
they were not interested in joining the committee - although
Netanyahu said one of the important elements of the panel´s work is
to include both Jews and Arabs without setting one group against the
other. He also said it was important to implement any changes
According to a source with knowledge of the committee, Arab officials
said any Arab who sits on the committee would be considered a kind
of "Uncle Tom." The source said Arab officials plan to conduct an
unofficial dialogue with the panel, and committee chairman MK Yohanan
Plesner (Kadima ) said he expects that an Arab member will eventually
join the panel.
"Additional spots are reserved for an Arab representative and a woman
from the field of economics," he said.
Two of the 10 members of the committee are female, a proportion that
some said was too low, especially considering the potentially
deleterious effects that an increased Haredi presence in the Israel
Defense Forces could have on women.
"Drafting Haredim into the IDF has critical consequences for women´s
service in the army," said Gila Oshrat, who heads the Israel branch
of the Women´s International Zionist Organization. "A failure to
develop a model for full equal opportunity and for preventing women´s
service from being curtailed will lead to severe discrimination
against women in the army."
The IDF already accedes to ultra-Orthodox demands that Haredi units
not interact with female soldiers, as other units often do, and some
fear that a larger ultra-Orthodox presence in the army could keep
women from doing more in the military or even from doing some of the
jobs they already do.
The committee has begun its deliberations even though it expects to
expand its membership because it is under a tight deadline, both
because the Tal Law expires at the end of July and because that is
when the Knesset´s summer recess generally begins.
The panel is expected to complete its deliberations, which will take
place three times a week, by June 28, and to finish drafting the
alternative to the Tal Law by July 25. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz
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