Netanyahu faces attacks from all sides for disbanding Plesner committee

Netanyahu faces attacks from all sides for disbanding Plesner committee

Kadima members and ultra-Orthodox both say prime minister has abandoned them

Yohanan Plesner speaking to the press Monday. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Yohanan Plesner speaking to the press Monday. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came under sharp attack from coalition members Monday after he moved to disband a parliamentary panel tasked with coming up with legislation for universal conscription.

Kadima head Shaul Mofaz, who had made the committee a centerpiece of his agreeing to joining the government, threatened to leave the coalition over the move, saying he rejected the dissolution of the committee. “I reject the PM’s statement and extend my full support to the  committee headed by MK Plesner,” the vice prime minister said. “If the prime minister chooses not to turn in the direction required, the national unity government will reach the end of its way.”

An unnamed Kadima MK lashed out at Netanyahu for the move. “Netanyahu spit in our faces,” the MK told Ynet news. “If he saw Mofaz as an equal partner, he would try to reach an understanding rather than just announcing his decision. If Netanyahu does not adopt the Plesner committee’s conclusions we have no business sitting in this government.”

MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), who headed the panel, also condemned the move, saying he would publish the panel’s recommendations anyway on Wednesday.

“I think that the Israeli public is waiting for this outcome and we plan on forwarding it and not letting anyone who is afraid of publishing the conclusions to ruin it and not allow them to be published,” he said.

A protest group formed to fight for universal conscription called on Mofaz to quit the government, saying nothing good would come of him staying on. “Today it’s clear nothing is going to happen and that Netanyahu will bring a second Tal Law,” the Staff for Fighting for Tal Law Change wrote Mofaz.

The Plesner committee had been formed to come up with a replacement for the expiring Tal Law, which had allowed religious yeshiva students to defer enlistment in the military. While the government has said it wants to draft the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs into some sort of national service, Haredi groups have threatened mass protest if forced to serve.

While some saw the end of the committee as catering to the ultra-Orthodox, Haredi politicians said the prime minister had left them high and dry.

MK Moshe Gafni of ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism issued sharp criticism of Netanyahu’s decision, saying the PM “abandoned the ultra-Orthodox community which has supported him for years, because of cheap populism and the self interest of political parties.” Gafni added that “not one truly devout yeshiva student will enlist as a result of this decision.”

Shahar Ilan, the vice president of religious freedom group Hiddush, slammed Netanyahu for dissolving the committee. “Netanyahu’s assumption that he can appoint a public committee and disband it just before the submission of the report because its conclusions are not to his liking is a new low in his contempt for the intelligence of the public,” he said in a statement.

The Plesner panel, formed at the request of the Kadima party, suffered several defections over the past days as members were unable to come to terms with how to draft the ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis into the army or how to punish draft dodgers.

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