Coalition expected to survive draft for haredim

Yisrael Beytenu’s Liberman says he will vote against Ya’alon-Plesner bill but not quit gov’t.

July 10, 2012 00:44
4 minute read.
Orthodox man talks with soldiers.

Orthodox man talks with soldiers. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will succeed in passing the proposal being drafted to equalize the burden of IDF service while keeping his 94-MK coalition intact, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin told reporters at the Knesset Monday.

United Torah Judaism has threatened to leave the coalition over the issue, and Shas has expressed similar thoughts.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

They are waiting to see what will be in the final bill drafted by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, which is expected to be completed by Wednesday night and brought to a vote in the cabinet Sunday.

The legislation is scheduled to have its first reading in the Knesset on Monday and its final readings by the end of the month.

“I don’t expect problems passing it,” Elkin said. “UTJ and Shas are sending messages to us not to count on them leaving, because they don’t want Kadima taking their portfolios.

UTJ has a real case to justify leaving the coalition, because the agreement not to change the status quo on matters of religion and state has been violated – but if UTJ or Shas leave, they are making a mistake, because we will have a secular coalition.”

MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) gave a thunderous speech in the Knesset plenum Monday night, inveighing against what he called Netanyahu’s “populist” appeasement of those campaigning for IDF draft reform in order to recruit haredi yeshiva students into the army.

“Prime ministers [in the past] recognized the value of Torah study – that without yeshivot there would be no Jewish people,” Gafni said. “We don’t have a prime minister who would thump the table and say ‘there is a Jewish people, there is a State of Israel, there are different communities, there is faith, there is a compass, there is a path and you are destroying this state for nothing but cheap populism.’”

Gafni also railed against Kadima in general and Plesner in particular, who led the Keshev Committee that formulated the proposals for draft reform that will form the basis of the new legislation.

“Along comes some young Kadima MK who wants to do well in the primaries, has got nothing really to talk about, and so leads the line that we need to treat yeshiva students like criminals, like they are committing criminal activities,” he said. “Nothing like this has happened to the Jewish people, that Torah study should be criminalized, since the days of Romans.”

Gafni warned that the personal financial sanctions against yeshiva students refusing to perform national service, which are a central part of the Plesner recommendations, would lead to less haredi recruits not more, and said that if these kind of measures are taken then “we will call on even those who are willing to serve not to do so.” But, he added that if the process was conducted with agreement then solutions could be found.

Elkin said he expected support for the bill from Kadima’s 28 MKs, Likud’s 27, the five Independence MKs and the three legislators of Habayit Hayehudi. He said there might be a problem with the Kadima rebels but he hopes to balance them out by obtaining the support of the National Union faction.

The coalition chairman downplayed a threat issued Monday by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to have Yisrael Beytenu’s 15 MKs vote against the proposal, saying that there was “nothing new” in the threat and that he was not counting on the party’s votes.

Liberman said at the start of Yisrael Beytenu’s faction meeting at the Knesset that if the Ya’alon-Plesner bill does not call for all 18-year-olds in Israel to be drafted, his party would present its own bill next week.

“We gave the Plesner committee a chance,” Liberman said. “We hope coalition discipline will not be enforced. All 15 of our MKs will vote against any proposal without an obligation to serve at 18, even if it is a proposal of the government.”

The foreign minister said he was also upset about the Ya’alon-Plesner bill not being tough on Arabs, because it would only gradually draft them to national service and not immediately. He said having 18-yearold Arabs perform national service in schools and the police and fire departments would help the teenagers just as much as it would help the country.

“I will say clearly that I don’t intend to leave the coalition,” Liberman said. “I know this will disappoint people in the Knesset and the press who hope we will make portfolios available.”

Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz told Channel 10 that there was no reason for his party to leave the coalition anymore. He said Kadima could return to the opposition if the recommendations of the committee headed by Plesner do not pass, but he said he did not expect that to happen.

Related Content

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
August 31, 2014
Prime minister to Channel 1: I’ll be running again in next election

By Gil Stern Stern HOFFMAN