Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday called on his coalition partners to reach a solution for the Tal Law within the coming hours or day, as Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman promised to bring his own bill to a vote on Wednesday.
"The fate of the legislation to replace the Tal Law is not clear," Barak said at his Independence party meeting. "I very much hope that the opportunity in the coming hours or day will not be missed and we will find an agreement."
Barak emphasized the importance of a more equal distribution of the service burden in society, saying that those who served should enjoy the benefits bestowed by the state.
He also discussed the importance of fair pay and benefits accrued to soldiers while they serve, so that after their service they can "embark on civilian life equipped to start on the right foot."
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday said that while gaps remain in his discussions with Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz on replacing the Tal Law, he has hope that they can overcome differences in the coming days.
"We must distribute the burden in a more equal and just way," Netanyahu said at a Likud faction meeting. "There are not a small number of agreements up until now and objectives that are coming together, including on personal sanctions. There are also some gaps remaining."
Calling their goals on haredi enlistment ambitious, Netanyahu pointed out that the current discussions included plans to draft 6,000 haredim by 2016, whereas there were only 300 in 2007 and about 2,400 in 2011.
"With all our ambitions, we must do this in stages and not in an overly forceful way, because that could cause a negative reaction, a split in the nation, and also a retreat from the progress we've already made," Netanyahu said.
Liberman said Monday that in the face of the government's failure to come to a compromise by which haredim and minorities will be drafted, his Yisrael Beytenu faction will submit a bill mandating IDF or national service by all 18-year-olds on Wednesday.
Speaking at a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting, Liberman called on the Likud and Kadima to "bring the simplest bill possible without acts or tricks" to implement universal service.
The foreign minister said that any bill by which haredim could defer
service until their mid-20s was a surrender. "I hear people say 18 is
not realistic. It's very realistic. There are enough challenges in
medicine, hospitals, firefighting, education [for national service.] In
two or three months, we can raise the entire system. I hope everyone
with common sense votes with us. I hope we have a majority. We won't
Liberman stated that only economic sanctions against ultra-Orthodox students who do not serve would prove effective. "Jailing them would play into their hands. We would make them into holy sacrifices. If a haredi knows he won't get support and his yeshiva knows it won't get funding – that is the most effective" way of ensuring the ultra-Orthodox serve, Liberman said.
The foreign minister said that economic sanctions would also be effective in enlisting Arab Israelis into national service. "If minorities know they won't get any unemployment or other benefits and cannot be state workers, it can work."
Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, Yisrael Beytenu released a YouTube video
titled “One citizenship, one obligation, one opportunity, one vote.” The
clip warns that, if current trends continue, the majority of Israelis
will not enlist in the IDF or do national service, and calls support for
their universal service bill.
Meanwhile on Monday, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said that he would seek to extend the Knesset's summer session if the government were to submit a universal service bill to the Knesset next week.
Next week is scheduled to be the last week of the current Knesset session, but Rivlin stated that he would ask the Knesset House Committee to extend the term for the purposes of discussing a bill to replace the Tal Law. The Tal Law, which allows the framework for haredi Torah students to indefinitely defer IDF service, expires on July 31.
"If the committee rejects my request, I intend on continuing the last
Knesset session into the recess until the discussions end and the bill
is approved," Rivlin said.
"This is an issue which must be determined. The Knesset cannot cut off the discussion while an answer is being formulated simply because a recess is scheduled," he added.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.
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