Shas chairman Eli Yishai denied reports on Sunday that the ultra-Orthodox party is prepared to agree to legislation on national service that includes individual punishments for ultra-Orthodox men who avoid mandatory enlistment. He said he would never agree to any such punishments.
Earlier reports on Channel 10 and Channel 2 said that in an afternoon meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Shas leaders indicated they would accept individual sanctions on ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers in exchange for enlistment exemptions for 20% of ultra-Orthodox draftees. The nature of the sanctions has yet to be finalized but early reports indicate draft dodgers could be prohibited from receiving government subsidies on home mortgages among other punishments.
In a sign that an agreement was far from resolved, attorney Jacob Weinroth, the religious groups’ representative to the Plesner Committee for the Advancement of an Equal Burden, resigned from the panel on Sunday evening, citing the insistence on individual sanctions as his reason.
“Aggressive steps, even if they bear fruit in the short-range, can be destructive in the long-term,” wrote Weinroth in his resignation letter to Netanyahu.
Both Shas and the United Torah Judaism party refused to take part in the committee’s deliberations over recent weeks. The panel is set to submit its recommendations to the government on Wednesday.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz both favor individual punishment for those who duck mandatory service in the IDF or alternative national service. Mofaz’s reportedly canceled trips to London and Paris this week because of his commitment to resolving the issue.
On Saturday, Mofaz held a meeting with fellow Kadima MKs and told them that he would push for Kadima to leave the coalition if Netanyahu capitulates to the ultra-Orthodox political parties.
Last week Yisrael Beytenu and the Jewish Home parties quit the Plesner committee after learning its tentative proposals would not have punished individual Israeli Arab draft dodgers.