Senior Kadima members met with Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) on Friday, circumventing their party leader Shaul Mofaz, to discuss a new draft bill that would recruit members of the ultra-Orthodox community to the IDF.
Analysts said the move could signal a possible break from their party, and suggested that up to seven Kadima MKs might vote for the Ya’alon bill, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may seek to advance through the Knesset in the final days of the summer session this week and ahead of an August 1 High Court deadline.
Former Shin Bet security service chief MK Avi Dichter (Kadima) held a secret meeting with Ya’alon shortly after Shaul Mofaz and his Kadima party left the coalition last Tuesday. Dichter, who has indicated support for the Likud iteration of the bill, was accompanied by Kadima MKs Otniel Schneller, Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich and former MK Tzahi Hanegbi.
On Friday, the group met once more. Ya’alon told Yedioth Ahronoth that three additional Kadima members, not all of whom support Ya’alon’s plan, were present, and that the meeting had been requested by Dichter.
Yoel Hasson of Kadima, who was at the meeting, said he was unconvinced by Ya’alon’s presentation. “From beginning to end,” Ya’alon’s plan is “deceit, fraud, trickery and wordplay,” Hasson said.
Dichter denied suggestions that the meetings were a stepping stone for the group to break off from Kadima, calling such speculation “vain attempts by people hiding behind a curtain of anonymity.” He explained that the MKs met with Ya’alon in order to hear his law proposal, which had not been presented to them before they left the coalition.
Yedioth reported that Hanegbi has already agreed terms to return to his former party, the Likud, along with other Kadima members.
Last Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adopted a proposal put forward by Ya’alon, which called for ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs to join the army or perform national service starting age 23 with an option to defer service to age 26. The motion included incentives for those who enlist at a younger age.
Mofaz blasted the proposal as “disproportionate and contrary to the High Court ruling,” which stated that the burden of serving should be shared by all citizens. He also said it did not meet the principle of equality laid out by the Plesner Committee. Kadima left the coalition the following day.