Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday informed Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz that he has decided to put an end to the Keshev Committee, tasked with finding a replacement to the Tal Law that will increase ultra-Orthodox enlistment in the IDF and national service.
In lieu of the committee giving its recommendations for new legislation to more equally distribute the service burden across all sectors of society, the prime minister will hold a discussion on the issue with the heads of all the parties in the governing coalition. "Let us take the reins and bring about a solution," Netanyahu stated after discussing the issue with Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz, who threatened to pull Kadima from the governing coalition if the committee's proposals were not adopted.
The High Court of Justice ruled in February that the Tal Law, which allowed haredim to indefinitely postpone IDF service, was unconstitutional and a replacement must be found for it by July 31. Netanyahu established the Keshev Committee, chaired by Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, to find a replacement for the law, but the haredi representative of the committee, attorney Yaakov Weinroth quit the panel Sunday because of his opposition to the committee's plans to personally sanction haredim that do not serve. Yisrael Beytenu and Habayit Hayehudi also quit the committee last week for not obligating mandatory national service for Israeli Arabs.
Netanyahu warned the haredi parties in his government that "if by August 1, there is no agreed-upon majority, the Tal Law will be abrogated and the Security Service Law will come into effect, applicable to all Israeli citizens. I prefer an agreed-upon and gradual solution but if we cannot reach such a solution by August 1, the IDF will draft according to its needs, and I believe that it will do so while taking into consideration the various public sectors so as to prevent a rift in the nation. Since the Security Service Law does not deal with the participation of the Arab and ultra-orthodox sectors in civilian service, we will also work to provide arrangements for this issue."
Netanyahu continued, "I am obligated to find a way to more equally distribute the service burden. Even before the High Court ruling I declared that I would work to increase equality in the burden in a defined manner within the haredi and Arab sectors, without pitting public against public. That was and remains my stance," Netanyahu stated.
"We charged the Plesner [Keshev] Committee with formulating an agreed-upon proposal for the government and the coalition in keeping with the High Court of Justice ruling. To my regret, the Plesner Committee did not succeed in reaching agreed-upon outlines due to the withdrawal of several of its members, and it cannot formulate a recommendation that would achieve a Knesset majority. For all intents and purposes, the committee has disbanded."
Mofaz for his part said Monday that Kadima would leave the coalition if the Keshev Committee's recommendations were not accepted. Mofaz has insisted that personal sanctions against draft-dodgers be implemented, while the haredi members of the coalition are staunchly opposed to this.