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Israel Disbands Panel on Military Service Rules (NY) TIMES) By JODI RUDOREN JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 07/03/12) Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/world/middleeast/israel-disbands-panel-on-military-service-rules.html?_r=1
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JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Monday disbanded the committee he had charged with devising a plan for universal military or national service, a move that could lead to a coalition crisis and end the national unity government he formed two months ago.
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The broad coalition has been in turmoil for a week over the issue of how to draft more ultra-Orthodox Jews as well as Arab citizens. Shaul Mofaz, the Kadima Party leader whose surprise agreement with Mr. Netanyahu gave the prime minister a supermajority of 94 of Parliament’s 120 members, had made the universal draft his primary goal.
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But the two men differ sharply on whether to levy personal sanctions on ultra-Orthodox men who avoid service in order to study in yeshivas, a nonnegotiable point for several right-wing and religious political factions whose alliances with Mr. Netanyahu are generally stronger than Kadima’s.
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“I am committed to a more equitable division of the burden,” Mr. Netanyahu told colleagues during a meeting Monday, according to a statement released by his office. He said he “would work toward greater equality in sharing the burden, gradually, among the ultra- Orthodox and Arab publics, without setting public against public.”
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The five-member committee, headed by a member of Kadima, was seeking to rewrite a decade-old law outlining exemptions for yeshiva students that was declared illegal by Israel’s Supreme Court. The chairman, Yohanan Plesner, said Monday night that he planned to release his proposal on Wednesday despite the committee’s dissolution.
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Mr. Mofaz did not respond Monday to requests for an interview sent through his aides. But The Times of Israel, a news Web site, quoted him Monday night as saying that he rejected Mr. Netanyahu’s statement and that he might leave the coalition over it. “If the prime minister chooses not to turn in the direction required,” he said, “the national unity government will reach the end of its way.”
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Mr. Netanyahu, for his part, said that he would convene the leaders of the parties in his coalition to formulate a workable proposal before the court-ordered expiration of the existing law Aug. 1. If that effort fails, the prime minister said the military would “draft according to its needs,” but take “into consideration the various publics so as to prevent a rift in the nation.” (Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company 07/03/12)
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