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PM threatens to drop Keshev C'tee if Arabs omitted
By JEREMY SHARON AND GIL HOFFMAN
06/28/2012
Yisrael Beytenu, Habayit Hayehudi quit c'tee after panel says it won't obligate Arab service; new threat of split in Kadima looms.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin 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.”

The prime minister is considering drafting his own recommendations instead of the committee’s proposals. He will meet with Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz on Friday in an attempt to settle their differences.

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 Knesset.

“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 press.

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.

“If it’s 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 issues.

“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.

Earlier this 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 it.

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.

“Netanyahu prefers 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 entails.

That means forming a real apparatus for handling national service and properly compensating combat soldiers.”
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