Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner began
drafting a bill Sunday that would equalize the burden of IDF service, in an
effort to bring about what Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called a historic
The two veterans of the IDF’s General Staff Reconnaissance Unit
intend to work long hours over the next two days to complete the bill by
Wednesday, get it approved in Sunday’s cabinet meeting and ensure its passage
into law by the time the Knesset’s summer recess begins July 25.
facing a facing a historic opportunity to heal what has been an open wound for
Israeli society,” Ya’alon said before his meeting with Plesner. “We have to use
our brains and avoid exacerbating societal rifts. I hope we will succeed in this
In the meeting, Ya’alon and Plesner tested each other’s
flexibility and red lines. The Likud was pleased to see Plesner compromise on
service for Israeli Arabs, while Kadima officials said the Likud made
concessions on the age when haredim will no longer be able to defer IDF service
for full-time Torah study.
“There has been progress but there are still
many question marks, which I hope within two or three days will become
exclamation marks,” Plesner said.
Kadima officials said the meeting was a
step in the right direction. They said there would still be many problems and
disagreements before the bill passes, especially because “there are so many
people who want to harm this process.”
Netanyahu and Kadima approve the
appointment of the Ya’alon-Plesner task force on Sunday after the Likud faction
agreed unanimously to endorse all of the recommendations of the Keshev Committee
except for its points on Israeli Arabs.
The Likud faction said it saw 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 this population be implemented gradually.
points addressed and accepted by the Likud faction are: the principle of service
for all Israeli citizens; that serving is a personal responsibility; providing
incentives and rewards for those who serve in the IDF; creating an enforcement
mechanism that will punish those who evade service; and the immediate
implementation of the committee’s recommendations regarding men in the
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
“Several months ago, I said that I would submit to the Knesset
a law on service for everyone,” Netanyahu told the cabinet. “I said that what
has been is not what will be, because on the issue of the division of the burden
the existing situation cannot continue. Neither the army, the economy nor
society can continue on the current path. Therefore, I completely understand the
demand of those who serve and their families.”
The prime minister said he
believed that the decisive majority of Israelis, including many in the haredi
sector, understand that change must come.
“After 64 years in which this
issue has not been properly dealt with, we are facing a historic move, a
dramatic increase in the participation of the ultra-Orthodox and Arab publics in
bearing the burden,” he said. “Such an increase has started, it is welcome, it
is important – but it is not enough. We want to bring about a dramatic increase
in the rate of participation. In order for this increased involvement to
succeed, we must enact it gradually and in a way that does not lead to a rift in
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz expressed opposition to
those doing civilian service receiving the same incentives as those who enlist
in the IDF for budgetary reasons, saying “someone who sweeps a mosque can’t get
everything, it will cost too much,” and that it will lessen the IDF’s
“We cannot confuse the value of defending Israel with work that
the government can pay for.
Massive civilian service is a bluff that will
cost the state billions,” Steinitz added.
The finance minister also
expressed concern about haredim with children enlisting, which would mean that
the state would have to pay billions to support entire families, not just single
Steinitz called for the IDF to enlist only those who are under
22 years old and do not have children.
Peled said that the new law is a “Zionist and moral matter” and that a change
must take place immediately.
According to MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), the
best incentive for those who serve is help in housing and buying land as well as
scholarships, and an effective deterrent would be to give preference to those
who enlist in all government jobs, including the rabbinate.
Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon lamented the many issues this government
has faced, including the Arab Spring, illegal migrants, the demolition of the
Ulpana outpost and the cancellation of the “Tal Law.”
“Why is this all
happening on our watch?” he asked. “For such massive challenges we need a strong
Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin said there is a
problem with requiring citizens to do civilian service, and that legally the
state can only force enlistment in the military.
Begin pointed out that
the High Follow-Up Committee for Arabs in Israel opposes any form of service, as
do Arab mayors.
“We need to avoid passing a bill that will be dead on
arrival,” he said. “Enforcement is not simple.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman said Sunday that Yisrael Beytenu will continue to push forward its bill
that will recommend each and every 18-year-old 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 principles of service for
everyone and service from the age of 18 are not implemented, Yisrael Beytenu
will continue to oppose a law that is based on the the Keshev Committee’s
Michael Omer-Man contributed to this report.