Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said Sunday that the legislation to replace the expiring Tal Law, which the High Court recently declared unconstitutional, can be realistically implemented only after Israel holds general elections.
Rivlin told Israel radio that settling the disputes over universal conscription before the elections is a nearly impossible task under the existing political conditions.
Though the current coalition is stable on paper, made up of 94 MKs, its partners are on opposite sides of the universal draft issue, with Kadima threatening to leave if the government doesn’t adopt the recommendations of the Plesner report and the religious parties adamant on sticking to the status quo.
Legislating a universal draft was a central condition of Kadima’s dramatic move from the opposition to the coalition two months ago following the election of Shaul Mofaz as Kadima head.
Kadima and Likud lawmakers have struggled for several weeks to draft a new law, coming to loggerheads over issues of who will have to serve when, and punishments for draft-dodgers.
Rivlin said that in his opinion only the scholarly prodigies, about 10% of young ultra-Orthodox, should be exempted from military or national service.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also weighed in on the issue earlier Sunday, saying calls for the draft to be imposed for everybody at age 18 were misguided.
Speaking at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that while demands for the immediate conscription of “all the ultra-Orthodox at the age of 18″ might be popular in the newspapers, such a step would do more harm than good and would cause fewer, not more, people to be drafted.
Netanyahu said that the issue of sharing the burden of service across all sectors of society needed to be addressed after having been neglected for 64 years but done ‘without tearing the nation apart.”
A realistic plan would recruit the ultra-Orthodox gradually over a period of time, Netanyahu said, setting a goal of 6,000 recruits per year by 2016. In 2012 some 2,400 ultra-Orthodox men were drafted to the IDF, police and other national service programs.
Tension around the recruitment of ultra-Orthodox men to the army has climbed in recent weeks, as the deadline for new legislation on the matter gets closer.
Sources close to Netanyahu told Channel 10 news that the prime minister was beginning to realize that inviting Kadima to join the coalition was a mistake. They said that though negotiations between Likud and Kadima on a new law were still taking place, Netanyahu was preparing to hold elections in January. They reasoned that if the universal draft law doesn’t get passed before the Knesset goes on recess in two weeks, Kadima would vote against the Netanyahu proposed budget.