PM, Mofaz agree on universal service law team

Announcement follows unanimous Likud approval of six major Plesner recommendations; Plesner, Ya'alon to lead team.

July 8, 2012 12:06
3 minute read.
Binyamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz

Binyamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz on Sunday agreed to form a special team to draft universal service legislation based on the Plesner Committee's recommendations.

The team will be headed by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) and MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima). Also set to participate in the team's process will be representatives of the Defense, Finance and Justice ministries, as well as of the National Service Administration.

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The Prime Minister's Office said the proposal was expected for presentation at the next cabinet meeting, presumably next week.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the decision presents a "historic opportunity." Barak said that the new law will help unite the nation and create a just distribution of the (national service) burden.

"This is the time to make decisions, and we are all obligated to take part in the mission and implement the law," the defense minister said.

Shortly after the announcement, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that Yisrael Beytenu will continue to push forward the bill that will recommend each and every 18 year be drafted into some form of military service, whether it be national or civilian.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Liberman reiterated that if the principals of service for everyone and service from the age of 18 are not implemented then Yisrael Beytenu will continue to oppose a law that is based on the the Plesner Committee's recommendations.

Shortly before the announcement, the Likud faction gave its unanimous approval to six major points from the Plesner Committee's recommendations, with some comments and reservations attached to some of them.

In contrast to the committee's recommendations published last week, the Likud statement says it sees no reason to delay the application of the "service for all" principle to the Israeli Arab population. Plesner recommended that the application of a service mandate for Israeli Arabs be implemented gradually.

The other points addressed and accepted by the Likud faction are: that the principle of service apply to all Israeli citizens; that performing service is a personal responsibility; the provision of incentives and rewards for those who serve in the IDF; creating an enforcement mechanism against those who evade service, and; the immediate implementation of the committee's recommendations regarding men in the ultra-Orthodox communities.

A statement issued by the faction also noted that it views gender equality in the IDF as greatly important, emphasizing that moves to apply universal service cannot be allowed to harm gender equality.

Speaking at the Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu said that everyone must perform some form of national service and that those who do not will face negative consequences.

The new law, to replace the Tal Law, must change the current reality by raising the number of people who serve, Netanyahu told a Likud faction meeting, adding that it "must be done responsibly in order to preserve national unity."

"Everyone needs to carry the (national service) burden," he said. "We will provide positive incentives to those who serves and negative ones to those who evade service."

"The issue is finally being addressed 64 years after it was not dealt with properly," the prime minister said. The new legislation, he added, will represent a historic change.

Also at the meeting, MK Danny Danon said that full national service must be required of Israeli Arabs if the Plesner Committee recommendations on universal service are to be accepted.

Danon accused Mofaz of committing political blackmail with the committee's recommendations in order to benefit Kadima's Arab voters.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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