Kadima may be out of the coalition, but the universal draft legislation conundrum is still igniting tensions. With the Knesset set to break later this week for its summer recess, a new bill proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party may pass into law before legislators return.
The divisive question of how to implement a universal draft led to the disintegration of the national unity government last week, as the Kadima party broke away over a lack of progress, leaving Netanyahu with only a narrow governing coalition to try and push through a new law.
The current law governing conscription was struck down by the Supreme Court in February and will expire at the end of this month. For ten years, the Tal Law had allowed ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students to defer service in the IDF until the age of 28, when they were considered by the military too old to serve.
During Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Defense Minister Ehud Barak proposed removing from the agenda a presentation by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon on the current state of replacement legislation. Ya’alon, who had been Likud’s representative in negotiations with Kadima for a new law, has since been tasked with coming up with his own proposal, a situation Barak said he disagreed with.
“As Ya’alon’s negotiations with Kadima led to the collapse of the coalition, the whole subject should come under my authority as defense minister,” Barak said following the cabinet meeting. Netanyahu reportedly rejected Barak’s proposal.
Ya’alon told the gathered ministers that the new law will lower the age of deferrals for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from 28 to 26. The Kadima proposal, submitted after the prime minister’s disbanding of the Plesner committee, had called for the ultra-Orthodox to be drafted at age 22 at the latest, with financial incentives for earlier enlistment.
The legislation will also call for 6,000 ultra-Orthodox conscripts per year by 2016, a far cry from the Plesner committee recommendations which called for the entire Haredi community to serve with the exception of 1,500 Torah scholars annually.
Ya’alon called upon the Defense Ministry to accommodate the needs of ultra-Orthodox recruits by providing for 45 hours of obligatory Torah study per week, reported Ynet News.
The new guidelines set a goal of 5,000 Israeli Arabs per year enlisting in national service by 2016.
Once Ya’alon’s proposal is complete, after review by the relevant ministries, it will be transferred to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. The bill will then be put to a vote in the Knesset.
“With a Knesset majority we could get the proposal approved, even during a Knesset recess,” Ya’alon said.
A Kadima spokesman called the bill-in-progress “an embarrassment.”
Kadima members reportedly said Ya’alon’s proposal was worse than keeping the Tal Law in place.
Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman — who recently put forth his own proposal draft legislation mandating service for all, including ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis, at 18 — called the proposal a “paraphrase of the Tal Law.”