Comments from within Shas on Wednesday night indicated the party may be willing
to compromise on the terms of legislation to draft ultra-Orthodox men into
national service, and prevent a coalition crisis.
MK Yohanan Plesner
(Kadima), who chaired the Keshev Committee tasked with formulating the new law,
presented his recommendations on Wednesday morning.
Among them were
proposals to levy heavy fines and financial sanctions on yeshiva students who
refuse to perform national service.
A source within Shas told The
Jerusalem Post that if there were a significant softening of the personal
sanctions, then it would be possible to pass Plesner’s other
Shas and United Torah Judaism insist that they will not
agree to fines on the individuals involved, which has led to the current
coalition crisis between the Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima
chairman Shaul Mofaz.
Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias
(Shas), who has been deeply involved in negotiations on the issue with the Prime
Minister’s Office, labeled Plesner’s report “extremist,” but insisted that if
the offending clauses, principally personal fines, were removed, then “real
change to the current situation can be made.
“I’m convinced that if we
replace the extremist clauses, and if we understand that real change requires
broad agreement, then we can achieve this substantive change in a gradual
process,” Attias said.
Speaking with the Post on Wednesday night, a
senior source in Shas reiterated that the party was willing to accept the
imposition of certain sanctions against those refusing to serve, and to remain
within the coalition.
He claimed that legislation on these terms would
lead to a 60-percent rate of enlistment in the haredi sector.
said that the personal fines that Plesner seeks to impose were simply not
acceptable and the party would not agree to them in any form.
fine someone what he doesn’t have,” he said, “so you have to ask yourself what
the point of the sanctions are? If you impose sanctions on welfare benefits this
will definitely be effective, and we can accept this. But if Plesner just wants
to screw the haredim, then instead of getting the 80% enlistment rate from
haredim, which is fantastical, he’ll get nothing.”
There were, however,
dissenting voices from Shas, with another source denying that the party was
willing to accept any form of personal sanctions on yeshiva students.
Moshe Gafni, who has led negotiations on behalf of UTJ, also alluded to a
slightly softer stance.
“I will not accept the principle of fines against
yeshiva students, which could reach hundreds of thousands of shekels,” he told
He did not, however, voice opposition to the sanctioning of
welfare benefits, such as municipal tax discounts, housing benefits and other
state subsidies, which many in the haredi sector receive and which were
stipulated in Plesner’s recommendations.
Gafni added that he would also
not compromise on the principle that anyone studying seriously in yeshiva should
be able to continue to so, putting him at odds with Plesner’s target of 80%
enlistment from the haredi sector by 2016.
Earlier, Gafni said that he
had not seen “such a pile of evil and maliciousness as this document in a long
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