Mofaz threatens to leave gov't over draft law

Vice Premier says gov't has until Friday to make progress on drafting universal service bill, scheduled to meet Netanyahu.

Shaul Mofaz at Kadima faction meeting 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Shaul Mofaz at Kadima faction meeting 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz convened his Kadima faction on Wednesday amid a break down in efforts to draft a universal service bill, saying "we are in the midst of a crisis, but we also have an opportunity. Without a meaningful solution we cannot remain in the government." Mofaz stated that he would leave the coalition by Friday if progress was not made on the issue.
Mofaz called the emergency meeting after Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner walked out of a meeting with Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon aimed at finding a replacement for the Tal Law. Plesner said negotiations on a universal service bill were "at a dead end."
Mofaz said that he was meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday evening to discuss the issue.
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, according to Kadima.
A Kadima source, while unable to specify the changes Ya’alon requested, said they would turn the bill into “a copy of the Tal Law,” which allowed haredim to indefinitely postpone service, and make it “empty of content.”
Ya'alon rejected Kadima's claims that there was a "blow up" in the meeting with Plesner.
Speaking in an interview with Army Radio Ya'alon downplayed the issue, saying, "Kadima should come back. My door is open. I still want to pass a bill. If we don't succeed in legislating it by the end of the [Knesset] term, there might not be a bill. It looks more political than practical," Ya'alon said.
The Likud minister said that if a replacement for the Tal Law was not legislated by July 31 when the Tal Law expires, the authority to enlist haredim will go to the Defense Ministry.
"We will bring more people sharing the burden in the Arab and haredi sectors with or without Kadima," Ya'alon stated. "There is a principled argument on whether we want more haredim or to declare war on the haredim. They are insisting on throwing haredim in jail. Throw people in jail for learning Torah? If we do that, all the progress that has been made with the programs that there already are will go backwards," he added.
Opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich urged Mofaz to announce in the Kadima faction meeting that his party will immediately quit the coalition, "and stop the political farce surrounding the Tal Law, which will not yield real results even if a new law is passed."
"Elections should be held in September and this was avoided just because of a political exercise of survival and now we have to go to the public and let it have its say in a wide range of significant issues in Israeli society," Yechimovich stated.
Previously, on Monday, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin had told reporters at the Knesset that Netanyahu would succeed in passing the proposal being drafted to equalize the burden of IDF service while keeping his 94-MK coalition intact.
United Torah Judaism had threatened to leave the coalition over the issue, and Shas had expressed similar thoughts.
They were waiting to see what would be in the final bill drafted by Ya’alon and Plesner, which, until the latest crisis, had been expected to be completed by Wednesday night and brought to a vote in the cabinet Sunday.
The legislation had been 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 at the time. “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,” said Elkin.