'Mofaz mulling departure from coalition today'

Sources: Mofaz may quit gov't over IDF service issue; PM holding meetings with Kadima MKs; faction set to meet to decide future.

Shaul Mofaz at Kadima faction meeting 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Shaul Mofaz at Kadima faction meeting 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz will remove his party from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition as early as Tuesday if gaps between Likud and Kadima on how to equalize the burden of IDF service are not bridged, sources close to Mofaz said Monday.
Netanyahu held meetings with Kadima MKs on Tuesday in hopes of convincing them to remain in the coalition. Mofaz called a meeting of the faction at its Petah Tikva headquarters for 5 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss whether the party should leave the government.
“If nothing happens [to end the conflict with Likud], I believe it is a correct conclusion [that Mofaz would seriously consider quitting on Tuesday],” a source close to Mofaz said. “It is not an ultimatum. It is due to the fact that there is no progress.”
Leading into the meeting, Mofaz on Tuesday afternoon rejected, what Netanyahu had characterized as a compromise offer, to resolve the Tal Law crisis.
According to Mofaz, the offer was that fifty percent of haredim between the ages of 18-23 would be drafted by the IDF and another 50% would be drafted into national service between the ages of 23-26.
Mofaz said that the proposal violates the ruling of the High Court on the issue, the principle of equal sharing of the burden of military service, is not proportional and does not meet the ultimate test of effectively resolving the issue.
Mofaz also noted that the proposal also did not include all draftable persons, and therefore, in reality, would merely maintain the unmanageable status quo.
Earlier, Mofaz’s associates had bashed Netanyahu for expressing optimism at Monday’s Likud faction meeting that an agreement with Kadima could soon be reached.
“I don’t know where his optimism comes from,” a Mofaz associate said. “Optimism has to be based on something concrete. No headway has been made.”
At the Likud meeting, Netanyahu denied reports quoting officials in his office saying that when the Knesset returns from its summer recess, the prime minister would initiate an election that would be held at the beginning of 2013.
“Since the government was formed, people are always warning that there will be elections,” Netanyahu said. “There will be elections in the end because the law requires it. You have to be ready because elections could be initiated at any given moment. But wait patiently. Elections are not coming up. They could be held in [October] 2013.”
Netanyahu told the faction that the bill he hopes to pass by the end of the month would result in a huge rise in haredi and Arab enlistment. He estimated that 6,000 haredim will enlist in 2016, compared to 2,400 that signed up in 2011 and 300 in 2007.
“We are committed to equalizing the burden,” Netanyahu said. “I am working with Mofaz on a solution.
There are many things we agree on and there are still gaps. I hope that by continuing cooperation, we will succeed in bridging the gaps over the next few days.”
The Supreme Court requires that an alternative bill to the Tal Law be passed by the end of the month.
The Knesset is set to begin its three-month recess on June 25.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said on Monday that he would delay the recess to enable the government to pass an alternative bill to the Tal Law.
“This is a topic that requires a decision, and the Knesset cannot cut its discussions short while [the bill] is being written, just because of the summer recess,” Rivlin said. “This topic has great public importance, and the Knesset cannot ignore it.”
The Knesset will vote Wednesday on a bill sponsored by Yisrael Beytenu that would require all 18- year-olds to serve. Coalition discipline will be enforced to ensure the bill’s defeat, but Netanyahu gave Yisrael Beytenu ministers and MKs special permission to support it.
“I hope everyone with a brain supports the bill,” Liberman told his faction at the Knesset. “I call upon Likud and Kadima to pass the simplest bill possible without shticks and tricks. All 18-year-olds must serve in army or national service, period.”
Opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich called upon Netanyahu and Mofaz to disperse the Knesset and advance the next election.