Netanyahu reportedly agrees to key Mofaz demand on haredi draft (ISRAEL HAYOM) Mati Tuchfeld, Shlomo Cesana, Yori Yalon and Yehuda Shlezinger 07/06/12)
Israel Hayom Articles-Index-Top
PM said to support personal sanctions on draft dodgers, possibly
clearing the way to compromise • Coalition chairman says enforcement
mechanism can be resolved after parties agree on the law´s main
provisions • Large numbers expected at Saturday´s "service for all"
After several days of intra-coalition squabbling that threatened the
two-month-old Kadima-Likud partnership, the two sides appeared Friday
to be on the verge of an agreement over the new bill on haredi (ultra-
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Kadima Chairman and Vice
Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz on Thursday to discuss a compromise over
the new bill, which would replace the Tal Law, which currently
exempts haredim from mandatory military service. The main point of
contention is over so-called "personal sanctions" – penalties that
would be imposed on haredi draft dodgers – which Kadima insists on
but which the ultra-Orthodox parties strongly oppose. Netanyahu
reportedly told Mofaz that he would be willing to accept a personal
penalty mechanism, in principle.
According to one of the prime minister´s associates, Netanyahu told
Mofaz that "we are actually like-minded when it comes to military
Speaking to Army Radio Friday, Coalition Chairman MK Zeev Elkin
said, "The gaps between Likud and Kadima are not great; if you try to
figure out the content of the process on this issue, we can draft a
historic law that will gradually change Israeli society. We must not
pass up this opportunity, precisely because Netanyahu considers
August the cut-off date."
MK Yohanan Plesner, who headed the panel tasked with drafting the new
law, has been one of the key proponents of personal sanctions. If his
recommendations are written into law, haredim who choose not to
perform military or national service upon reaching the age of 22
would be subject to monetary fines and reduced social benefits.
Although the committee was dissolved before the official publication
of its report, the recommendations were largely endorsed by Kadima.
Netanyahu´s decision to accept the notion of financial penalties may
clear the way for a compromise over the draft issue. The figures
could reach tens of thousands of shekels, although Mofaz has already
indicated he was willing to negotiate the exact figure during the
deliberations on the bill. The general assumption is that Netanyahu´s
decision to allow the sanction measure to go ahead was coordinated
with the ultra-Orthodox parties, which are likely to oppose the bill
but will not use it as a pretext for leaving the coalition. Netanyahu
has so far insisted that legislators should first agree on the basic
outline of the bill and only then determine what the best enforcement
mechanism should be.
Associates of Mofaz declined comment as to whether the meeting with
Netanyahu produced a breakthrough that convinced Kadima to withdraw
its ultimatum that it would bolt the coalition by Monday unless a
solution was found. Mofaz and Netanyahu are expected to meet once
again over the weekend or early next week.
"This is only a very modest step, albeit in the right direction,"
said one Mofaz associate, referring to Netanyahu´s endorsement of the
The reports of a compromise have rattled Mofaz´s fellow Kadima
faction members, some of whom have threatened they will defect from
the party if the differences are finessed to the point that they are
not in line with Plesner´s recommendations. Some of them even said
Thursday that they planned to attend Saturday´s demonstration in
front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, organized by the so-
called “Suckers’ Camp” — a group of military reservists who have been
at the forefront of the "service for all" campaign over the past
several months, calling for all Israeli citizens, including haredim
and Arabs, to be required to take part in some kind of mandatory
In January, the High Court of Justice ruled that the 2002 Tal Law,
which effectively grants ultra-Orthodox a blanket waiver from the
mandatory military service, was unconstitutional and had to be
replaced by Aug. 1. The justices said the de facto exemption of an
entire segment of the population from the mandatory service
requirement discriminates against the majority and is inconsistent
with Israel´s core values as a Jewish democracy. They further said
the law grossly undermines the notion of equality among Israeli
Last Monday, with the emerging recommendations threatening to unnerve
Netanyahu´s haredi coalition partners, the prime minister decided to
disband the Plesner committee, saying it failed to meet its goal of
formulating an alternative to the Tal Law that would successfully
attain a majority vote in the Knesset. Friction and disagreement had
surrounded the Plesner Committee since its inception, but Netanyahu´s
decision to disperse it after its likely recommendations emerged
triggered a spat between Kadima and the Likud.
Netanyahu´s associates explained on Monday that "ever since three of
the committee members resigned, it had in essence lost its
legitimacy. The Knesset would never have passed its recommendations,
and there really was no reason for it to continue to exist."
The haredi parties insisted on a compromise that would see penalties
imposed on the institutions that enable these individuals to study,
rather than on the individuals themselves. Kadima insisted on
imposing personal penalties but blamed Netanyahu, who did not want to
lose his haredi coalition partners, of choosing an easy way out by
dissolving the committee.
Netanyahu´s move elicited strong reactions in the Knesset and from
the Suckers´ Camp protesters and placed tremendous pressure on Mofaz
to decide whether or not to remain in the coalition. Opposition
leader MK Shelly Yachimovich said she was already working on a
measure to call early elections.
Former IDF Chief of General Staff Dan Halutz, a registered member of
Kadima, said Thursday that he would leave the party if Mofaz were to
compromise over the draft bill, and has even sent a letter to Mofaz
urging him not to back down.
Yisrael Beytenu party chairman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
also met with Netanyahu on Thursday. Lieberman´s faction is expected
to vote against the bill because it is unlikely to apply the
mandatory service requirement on Israeli Arabs and because the party
opposes Plesner´s idea of allowing haredim to ask for deferment until
Meanwhile, some 200 haredi youth began their voluntary national
service on Thursday with an orientation day at the Yad Sarah
volunteer organization in Jerusalem. The number of haredim who have
signed up for national service this year has soared by several dozen
percent compared with last July.
"This is the first experience haredim have in the job market; they
are exposed to a whole new world here," Menachem Shtauber, a married
ultra-Orthodox man who arrived at Yad Sarah Thursday, told Israel
Hayom. "Any attempt to coerce the haredi population will backfire
with strong effect, and will cause further estrangement, and
therefore the Plesner Committee was completely unnecessary; what´s
needed is a gradual and consensual process, not a political
Dudi, a young haredi man who is married with two children, began his
two-year national service experience as well. "I hope that we get the
right tools and that they don´t take away our eyes and hurt the world
of Torah study. The only way forward is through volunteer work and
mutual consent, not force."
Sar Shalom Jerbi, who runs the government´s volunteer service
apparatus, said Thursday that he was certain the new law would lead
to a surge in the number of volunteers among the haredim. "The burden
that you, the volunteers, have to carry is as heavy as the one
carried by anyone serving in a non-combat unit in the IDF," Jerbi
told the volunteers.
But some in the haredi world have adopted a more aggressive posture.
Rabbis from Ha´eda Haharedit (a relatively isolationist stream of
haredi Judaism in Israel) have ordered their community to engage in
special prayer to reverse what they have termed "the draft decree
against the Jews," for 10 consecutive days starting Sunday.
Pessimism also seems to carry the day in Shas, the Sephardic ultra-
Orthodox party in the coalition. Housing and Construction Minister MK
and Rabbi Ariel Atias warned that the way things are unfolding,
Israel may find itself heading toward early elections. "The red lines
we have drawn and the lines that the public thinks have been drawn by
Plesner represent the maneuvering room."
The leader of the Suckers´ Camp are already fully engaged on the
upcoming demonstration Saturday night. Thousands of protesters are
expected to walk from the main encampment grounds at the Tel Aviv
Arlozorov Train Station toward the Tel Aviv Museum. One organizer
said that he expects a wide spectrum of people to show up at the
event, among them "reservists who are not in active duty – including
senior officers – high school students, religious groups, wives of
IDF reservists, and people from both the right and left of the
political divide – the silent people of the Land of Israel who want
to prove that the fight for equal sharing of the burden has become a
consensus issue for the Zionist-democratic society in Israel."
The Kibbutz Movement, Bnei Akiva (a national religious youth
movement), The National Student Union, "Free Israel" and Hiddush (two
NGOs who oppose religious coercion), pro-Zionist movement Im Tirzu
and the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism plan to
send representatives as well.
A statement released by the organizers said that "thousands of
citizens are expected to participate and send a loud and clear
message – service for all. This message will not be anti-haredi;
rather, it will trumpet the notion of service, which will save the
IDF down the road. No politicians will take part in the event, only
private citizens and representatives from organizations of all
political persuasions. This is the public´s moment of truth --
Netanyahu and Mofaz will sell out the reservists for the sake of
obtaining the Haredi support, but if the public fails to show up and
exert heavy pressure -- it will have asked for a Tal Law 2."
Yoaz Hendel, who until recently served as the head of the National
Information Directorate at the Prime Minister´s Office, will be among
the speakers at the event. Intellectuals, performers, rabbis and
other public figures are also expected to be among the high-profile
figures in attendance.
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