If the government adopts the Keshev Committee's recommendations on drafting haredim into the army, it will cause a civil war, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Thursday morning on Israel Radio.
"I would like to see the haredim join the IDF at 18 years old," Ya'alon said. "But if we try this, we will start a civil war."
Kadima party chair Shaul Mofaz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will also meet again on Thursday in an attempt to work out differences on the issue, Army Radio reported.
MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) walked out on talks with Ya’alon about a universal service bill on Wednesday, when the two sides were unable to reach agreements on key issues. After Plesner and Ya’alon discussed and agreed on enlistment quotas and personal sanctions for those who do not join the IDF or do national service, the Likud minister presented a different stance in a Wednesday-afternoon meeting.
The main dispute between Likud and Kadima was over whether there should be quotas limiting the number of yeshiva students permitted to avoid the draft, as Kadima demands, or merely setting targets for the number of haredim drafted, which the Likud prefers. The parties also disagree on the final age at which service could be avoided and the extent of sanctions against draft evaders.
Ya'alon said that his proposal was more realistic than that being put forth by MK Yohanan Plesner, the Kadima MK who has taken up the mantle of increasing the IDF draft rate for haredim. "The haredim will not vote for my proposal, but they will not star a civil war over it," Ya'alon said, "Plesner's proposal will erase all the inroads we've made in integrating haredim, including the Nahal Haredi program."
Ya'alon added that the Likud has accepted the fundamentals of Plesner's recommendations, but that negotiations are being held up by Plesner's own personal stubbornness.
The issue of minority enlistment in the IDF is causing rifts in the governing coalition. Both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz on Wednesday evening downplayed the the effects of Wednesday's breakdown of negotiations, but recognized that if a solution is not ultimately found, the issue could eventually lead to Kadima leaving the coalition.
“In all negotiations, there are moments of tension, like what has happened today,” Mofaz said in a speech to 150 yeshiva students in Jerusalem following his meeting with the prime minister. “At the moment we’re discussing the actual text of the bill and we’re making progress. But if we don’t come to an agreement, we won’t be partners in the coalition.”
Ya’alon and Plesner will meet again on Thursday, but both sides expressed pessimism that the crisis could be resolved, especially amid the bad blood created by their public dispute.
Gil Hoffman, Lahav Harkov and Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report