Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) Friday morning to resolve what appeared to be a coalition crisis brewing over efforts to equalize national civil and military service throughout the country's demographic groups.
On Thursday, Netanyahu warned members of the Keshev Committee on Thursday that unless it instituted mandatory national service for the Arab sector, he might decide not to bring the committee’s recommendations to the Knesset for a vote.
The Keshev Committee, tasked with drafting proposals to replace the “Tal Law,” announced earlier Thursday that it had decided instead to institute a recruitment target for national service in the Arab community, of at least 6,000 recruits per year by 2016.
“This decision goes against my
instructions,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying. “This committee is starting to
wear out its welcome.”
Both Yisrael Beytenu and Habayit Hayehudi quit the Keshev
Committee on Thursday following its decision on the Arab sector. Yisrael Beytenu
said its MKs would bring a bill the party had submitted, “in which all sectors
of the nation share the burden of national service,” to a vote before the
“Yisrael Beytenu believes that there is only one right path to
bring about the genuine equality of burden among all citizens in the country,
and that is for every Israeli 18-year-old to serve in the military or civilian service, whether secular, haredi or Arab,” the party declared in a statement to
The party has insisted throughout the process of drafting a
replacement for the Tal Law that the principle of mandatory national service
must extend to the Arab community as well.
Habayit Hayehudi chairman
Daniel Herschkowitz told the prime minister that in light of the Keshev
Committee’s conclusion that it would not draft Arabs into national service, his
party could not continue to cooperate with it.
Sources in United Torah
Judaism also complained about the decision not to make Arab service compulsory,
saying that the equality that the Supreme Court required in the share of the
military burden could not mean only for the ultra-Orthodox.
equality they want, then it has to be equality for all,” a UTJ source said. “How
can you have financial sanctions against the haredim, but other sectors of the
population get off free?” The Keshev Committee issued a sharply worded response
to Yisrael Beytenu’s decision, calling the step a “populist move” and accusing
the party of “inflaming tensions” instead of working to address the
“It’s a shame that political interests have overcome a sense of
responsibility, which has thereby made it more difficult to take advantage of
the historic opportunity to implement a balanced and comprehensive solution
which would bring about real change,” the committee said.
month, the Abraham Fund coexistence organization told the Keshev Committee that
the Israeli Arab community and political leadership would only be willing to
discuss participation in national service programs if the issue were linked to
addressing inequality in the Arab sector. The committee decided that the issue
was too complicated to deal with comprehensively within the time frame open to
Kadima MK Shlomo Molla said he and many other legislators in his
party believed that Arabs should be required to do national service. He warned
that if the Keshev Committee did not equalize the burden of service, part of
Kadima could end up leaving the coalition and the party.
“I expect Mofaz
to stick to Kadima’s values and not compromise,” Molla said. “This entire
process proves we should not have entered this government in the first place.
Had we gone to an election, we might have been able to regain our footing, but
now it will be much harder for Kadima to survive.”
If MKs leave Kadima,
they could form a new party together with former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni. In
an interview last week, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid left open the possibility of
Livni running with his party in the next election.
Yesh Atid activists
will protest on streets across the country on Friday over what they perceive as
Netanyahu surrendering to the haredim. Lapid accused Netanyahu of trying to
trick the public into thinking haredim would serve.
political maneuvering and sucking up to what he called his natural political
partners rather than finding a proper solution ensuring equal service for all,”
Lapid said. “There is no solution other than everyone serving, with all that
That means forming a real apparatus for handling national
service and properly compensating combat soldiers.”
JPost.com staff contributed to this report.