In the wake of Tuesday’s political shakeup, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman made clear his party has no intention of following Kadima out of the coalition. In an interview to Army Radio Wednesday morning, the foreign minister said he would remain in the government and either see through a universal draft law of his own, or at least prevent a “bad law” from passing.
“We won’t leave the coalition under any circumstances. We will fight the battle from within,” said Liberman. “Those who really want universal enlistment must support our bill. You can postpone the end, but you can’t evade a decision forever.”
On Tuesday evening, Kadima announced its departure from the unity government over the failure of multiple committees to draft a new universal military or national service conscription law, an issue also on Yisrael Beytenu’s platform. Yisrael Beytenu has drafted its own version of a universal draft law, mandating conscription for all Israeli citizens at age 18, which will go before the Knesset on Wednesday, despite slim chances of passing.
The Tal law, which regulated the draft and also ultra-Orthodox exemptions to universal service, was declared unconstitutional by the High Court of Justice earlier this year and is set to expire on August 1. The main condition of Kadima’s dramatic entry into the ruling coalition in May was to draft a new universal conscription law, which was to include provisions for ultra-Orthodox Jews and national service for Israeli Arabs.
Liberman also expressed his opposition to Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s (Likud) recommendations that stipulate that draft-eligible ultra-Orthodox men will be able to choose either military or civil service options between the ages of 18 and 22, with financial incentives for early serving. According to Ya’alon’s proposal those who don’t serve by age 26 will suffer financial sanctions. His plan also includes national service quotas for Israeli Arabs.
A spokesman for the “Suckers” movement of army reservists, which supports a universal draft, said that now that Kadima was out of the coalition, they would focus their pressure on Yisrael Beytenu and urged the party to leave the coalition if their bill does not pass on Wednesday.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said that Prime Minister yair laBenjamin Netanyahu was after “gradual and responsible” legislation on universal conscription. “He wants to reach a solution that will increase equality, but prevent a rift in Israeli society,” said Erdan.
On the prospect of early elections, Erdan said he was confident that the next elections would be held on their scheduled date, but that his party is ready to go to the polls if other coalition members opt to do so.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai denied claims that Netanyahu had chosen to side with the religious parties over the secular Kadima. “He didn’t adopt the Kadima stance, but he definitely didn’t side with us. He took the middle ground. For us even that is going too far,” said Yishai.
Yair Lapid, head of the new Yesh Atid (There Is a Future) party, told Army Radio on Wednesday that the draft issue is “a simple matter” and that it’s possible to create a new law so that “all Israeli citizens do army or national service.”
Lapid said that Netanyahu “divides the Israeli people… on one side there are those who do service, and on the other side there are those who do not. It’s impossible to continue like this… if the prime minister thinks that there are some that are not worthy of serving, then he is not worthy of being prime minister.”