The right-wing, national religious Jewish Home party and the secular-oriented, centrist Yesh Atid on Sunday informally agreed to push for universal conscription based on a plan detailed by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, should the parties join a coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the new government.
According to Jewish Home officials quoted in Maariv on Sunday, the party has agreed in principle to Lapid’s “reasonable” proposal for universal service for all Israeli citizens, with some caveats: that the number of yearly exemptions granted in the plan to exceptional yeshiva students be increased — it currently stands at 400 — and that religious girls be drafted into the IDF on a volunteer basis only, and be allowed to do national service instead.
“We think everyone should bear the burden, either through military or civil service,” said Jewish Home MK Uri Ariel. “We should open additional ways for the ultra-Orthodox to join the army, and offer a national or civil option.” He added that the conscription system must be “easy to use” and well-funded, which is not the case currently.
Jewish Home officials have also had discussions with representatives of Shas and United Torah Judaism, the two ultra-Orthodox parties. The ultra-Orthodox parties reportedly offered a deal in which, no matter the final coalition outcome, the Jewish Home would protect yeshiva funding, and in return the ultra-Orthodox would act against proposed settlement evacuations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was formally charged by President Shimon Peres on Saturday evening with forming the new coalition government for the 19th Knesset. Official negotiations began Sunday and Netanyahu has 28 days to form a coalition, with the possibility of an extension.