Kadima is raising the ante in its battle with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the issue of universal enlistment in the IDF, demanding that new legislation on the issue limit Haredi exemptions and impose fines on those who refuse to serve. If these conditions are not met, Kadima representatives said late Tuesday night, the party will leave the national unity government.
Netanyahu was scrambling to prevent Wednesday’s publication of the Plesner committee’s findings on universal enlistment and keep his tenuous coalition together.
Netanyahu enlisted the assistance of his ousted former bureau chief Natan Eshel to convince MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) not to publish the committee’s report on drafting a universal conscription bill, Ynet reported. But Plesner was quoted on Tuesday night as saying that he would present the committee’s findings as planned on Wednesday morning, and that “the ball will then be in the court of the politicians.”
Ynet reported that the committee’s recommendations — which would be part of Kadima’s demands for new legislation — include allowing Haredim to delay enlistment until the age of 22, instead of 28 as stipulated by the Tal Law, as well as a limit of 1,500 annual deferments for the most promising yeshiva students and personal fines or sanctions against those who refuse to serve.
Kadima head Shaul Mofaz said on Monday he would not meet with Netanyahu until after the findings were published, and hinted he would reconsider the party’s future in the coalition.
Eshel reportedly spoke with a number of Kadima MKs on Tuesday to persuade them not to break away from the unity government, as several had vowed to do earlier in the day.
According to a Kadima MK involved in the talks, Eshel expressed willingness to accept some of the principles of the Plesner committee’s conclusions. Eshel and Netanyahu’s overriding concern, the Kadima MK said, was that Mofaz will go too far and expose the government to High Court petitions by publishing the report.
Eshel, who was ousted from the Prime Minister’s Bureau following a harassment scandal involving a colleague, had earlier been revealed to have been a key part in putting the wide coalition together.
On Monday, Netanyahu announced the Kadima-led Plesner committee would be disbanded, sending his coalition into a tailspin. The universal draft legislation is needed to replace the expiring Tal Law, which had allowed for yeshiva students to be exempted from military or civilian service.