The national unity government formed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and
Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz less than two months ago could break up as early as
Wednesday if a solution is not found to their dispute over how to equalize the
burden of IDF service.
Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, who heads the Keshev
Committee – tasked with finding a replacement for the “Tal Law” – intends to
publish recommendations he promised would be historic on Wednesday, despite
Netanyahu announcing that the committee has been dismantled.
up Plesner and issued his strongest threat ever to leave Netanyahu’s
“The committee was formed by Kadima and Likud together, and
its unilateral dissolution by the prime minister does not obligate Kadima,”
Mofaz said. “If the prime minister does not go in the right direction, the
national unity government will end.”
Netanyahu angered Mofaz when he
released a statement announcing that the Keshev Committee had been scrapped
moments after Mofaz praised the committee’s work at a Knesset press conference.
In a brief conversation before the press conference, the prime minister asked
Mofaz to help him dismantle the committee but Mofaz said no.
Netanyahu would try any political maneuver to prevent the committee’s findings
from being published,” a source close to Mofaz said.
“Netanyahu has tried
to torpedo the committee from day one.”
Sources close to the prime
minister countered by saying that Yisrael Beytenu, Habayit Hayehudi and haredi
representative Jacob Weinroth leaving the committee over the past week removed
its legitimacy and any chance of its findings passing in the Knesset. They said
it would be better for Netanyahu to start over, meet with all the parties in the
coalition personally and help them find common ground.
In his statement,
Netanyahu warned the haredim that if a compromise is not reached by August 1,
when the Supreme Court ruled the Tal Law will be canceled, the IDF will be free
to begin drafting yeshiva students.
“I am obligated to find a way to more
equally distribute the burden of service,” Netanyahu said. “Even before the High
Court ruling, I declared that I would work to equalize the burden in a defined
manner in the haredi and Arab sectors, without pitting public against
public. That was and remains my stance.”
Both President Shimon
Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak offered to mediate between Netanyahu and
Mofaz in order to keep the coalition together and reach a compromise on how to
equalize the burden. Barak called upon them to leave the IDF out of their
political dispute and settle their differences responsibly.
reacted with outrage to Netanyahu’s decision to dismantle his
In a hastily called Knesset press conference, he accused the
prime minister of “fleeing from what the public wants.”
He said his
committee met for hundreds of hours, held dozens of meetings, heard dozens of
experts, performed very exhaustive staff work and met with the IDF and every relevant government ministry in order to do the
most comprehensive work in Israel’s history on the issue of equalizing the
“I don’t want to create unnecessary drama, but in two days,
things will shift to the political field where decisions are made,” Plesner
said. “Our recommendations are the only game in town. The prime minister has no
majority to pass any proposal except ours.”
Coalition chairman Ze’ev
Elkin (Likud) responded by calling Plesner’s intention to submit his committee’s
findings despite Netanyahu’s opposition “pathetic” and said the committee had
lost its legitimacy.
Haredi MKs blasted Netanyahu’s handling of the
United Torah Judaism leader Ya’acov Litzman said dismantling
the Keshev Committee proved that from the start the sole purpose of the
committee was to harm the ultra-Orthodox.
“The prime minister must honor
the coalition agreement as it is written and pass in the Knesset a law that will
allow the continuing existence of the world of the Torah and the preservation of
the status of Torah scholars,” UTJ said in a statement.
A Shas spokesman
expressed disappointment that instead of reaching common ground, Netanyahu chose
to submit an ultimatum about drafting yeshiva students on August 1, which the
party said would lead to a rift in the Jewish people.
of the Plesner committee is further proof that the establishment of the
committee in its current form was a mistake,” Shas said. “The only solution it
sought was political prostitution. The committee did not understand the
importance and complexity of the issue it deliberated on and established its
goals before any hearings took place. The importance of this issue requires the
establishment of a serious and businesslike committee which will hold impartial
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) condemned the prime minister for
dismantling the Keshev Committee, saying it “proves once again that Netanyahu is
submitting to haredim and has no intention of equalizing the public
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said Netanyahu never really intended
to solve the problem, only to stall for time and trick the
“Netanyahu is once again choosing his natural partners, the
haredim, over the majority of the public that serves in the army, pays taxes and
barely gets by,” he said.
Daniel Clinton, Yoni Dayan and Jeremy Sharon
contributed to this report.