Shas sources: Compromise can avert coalition split

The party may be willing to compromise on the terms of legislation to draft ultra-Orthodox men into national service, and prevent a coalition crisis.

July 5, 2012 01:16
2 minute read.
Ultra-orthodox yeshiva students [illustrative]

Haredi ultra-orthodox yeshiva students 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

Comments from within Shas on Wednesday night indicated the party may be willing to compromise on the terms of legislation to draft ultra-Orthodox men into national service, and prevent a coalition crisis.

MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), who chaired the Keshev Committee tasked with formulating the new law, presented his recommendations on Wednesday morning.

Among them were proposals to levy heavy fines and financial sanctions on yeshiva students who refuse to perform national service.

A source within Shas told The Jerusalem Post that if there were a significant softening of the personal sanctions, then it would be possible to pass Plesner’s other recommendations.

Shas and United Torah Judaism insist that they will not agree to fines on the individuals involved, which has led to the current coalition crisis between the Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz.

Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias (Shas), who has been deeply involved in negotiations on the issue with the Prime Minister’s Office, labeled Plesner’s report “extremist,” but insisted that if the offending clauses, principally personal fines, were removed, then “real change to the current situation can be made.

“I’m convinced that if we replace the extremist clauses, and if we understand that real change requires broad agreement, then we can achieve this substantive change in a gradual process,” Attias said.

Speaking with the Post on Wednesday night, a senior source in Shas reiterated that the party was willing to accept the imposition of certain sanctions against those refusing to serve, and to remain within the coalition.

He claimed that legislation on these terms would lead to a 60-percent rate of enlistment in the haredi sector.

The source said that the personal fines that Plesner seeks to impose were simply not acceptable and the party would not agree to them in any form.

“You can’t fine someone what he doesn’t have,” he said, “so you have to ask yourself what the point of the sanctions are? If you impose sanctions on welfare benefits this will definitely be effective, and we can accept this. But if Plesner just wants to screw the haredim, then instead of getting the 80% enlistment rate from haredim, which is fantastical, he’ll get nothing.”

There were, however, dissenting voices from Shas, with another source denying that the party was willing to accept any form of personal sanctions on yeshiva students.

MK Moshe Gafni, who has led negotiations on behalf of UTJ, also alluded to a slightly softer stance.

“I will not accept the principle of fines against yeshiva students, which could reach hundreds of thousands of shekels,” he told Army Radio.

He did not, however, voice opposition to the sanctioning of welfare benefits, such as municipal tax discounts, housing benefits and other state subsidies, which many in the haredi sector receive and which were stipulated in Plesner’s recommendations.

Gafni added that he would also not compromise on the principle that anyone studying seriously in yeshiva should be able to continue to so, putting him at odds with Plesner’s target of 80% enlistment from the haredi sector by 2016.

Earlier, Gafni said that he had not seen “such a pile of evil and maliciousness as this document in a long time.”

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