Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Natan Eshel conducted shuttle diplomacy Tuesday between all parties involved in the dispute over how to equalize the burden of IDF service, in an effort to prevent the coalition from unraveling.
The mediators did not succeed in bringing about a meeting Tuesday between Netanyahu and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, who is angry at Netanyahu for disbanding the Keshev Committee that the prime minister tasked with finding an alternative to the “Tal Law” legislating the drafting of yeshiva students.
Mofaz has refused to meet with Netanyahu until after the Kadima leader presents Keshev’s findings together with committee chairman Yohanan Plesner on Wednesday morning. He accused Netanyahu of tricking him and making a political deal with Shas and United Torah Judaism at Kadima’s expense.
Sources close to Netanyahu said he would meet with Mofaz Wednesday in an attempt to settle their differences.
The sources said the prime minister would tell Mofaz that he will use Plesner’s recommendations as the basis for talks with coalition partners on a bill that will be passed in the Knesset to replace the Tal Law by its August 1 deadline.
Eshel reportedly tried to persuade Plesner to delay presenting his recommendations.
“We are optimistic that the prime minister will find a solution,” Netanyahu’s spokesman Liran Dan said Tuesday night.
Barak arrived from New York on Tuesday morning and went straight to a meeting with Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office. He then spoke with Mofaz and Plesner, and reported back to the prime minister.
“The challenge is to restore the trust between Netanyahu and Mofaz,” a source close to Barak said. “They know there are no real friendships in politics and it’s all political interests.
Both sides have an interest in keeping the partnership going.”
Eshel, who was the architect of the national unity government, mediated between Kadima and Shas, meeting with Plesner and Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias, who has expressed willingness to compromise on the key issue of personal sanctions against yeshiva students who evade IDF service.
“Netanyahu told us there had to be personal sanctions and there was no way around it, so we said that if there are light personal sanctions we will not leave the coalition,” Attias told Army Radio. “We are not part of this game. It was Kadima that was unwilling to compromise and close a deal.”
Opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich and Labor MK Isaac Herzog announced Tuesday they would be submitting a bill to dissolve the Knesset and initiate early elections on Wednesday.
Yechimovich had presented such a bill to the Knesset prior to Kadima entering the coalition in May. She decided to bring the bill to a vote again amid the crisis over the Keshev Committee.
“The elections were supposed to take place in September, but this natural process was prevented by the cynical, survivalist tactic carried out by the Likud and Kadima – which created a giant, ineffective coalition unable to come to a reasonable agreement, even in regard to the Tal Law,” she said.
“The public must now choose at the voting booth between the Likud under the leadership of Netanyahu and Labor under my leadership.”