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Bibi's choice

Op-ed: By dissolving committee tasked with drafting new IDF recruitment law, prime minister chose haredim over Kadima

Published: 07.03.12, 11:02 / Israel Opinion

We've reached the insult stage. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his unilateral decision to dissolve the Plesner Committee, which was tasked with drafting a new IDF recruitment law, while Mofaz was meeting with members of his Kadima faction. He had phoned Mofaz earlier, but did not inform him of his plan to disband the panel. This is not how you treat a coalition partner. You cannot even treat a rival in this manner. But politicians have recovered from harsher insults.


Netanyahu, it appears, has made his choice. He chose the haredim over Kadima. He has an opportunity to rectify a number of distortions which previous coalitions could not address. But apparently he prefers to steer clear of this particular issue, just so the haredi factions will not accuse him of breaking his alliance with them. Instead of shaping the country's future, the PM is securing his own. Sources close to Netanyahu assume Kadima will not quit the coalition. Even if it does, the party does not pose a threat to Netanyahu's status – not now and not after the next elections.

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"Kadima has 28 fish, and they are all swimming outside their aquarium," one of Netanyahu's associates said. The haredim have less fish of course, but they know how to swim.


Mofaz told me last night that he did not consider the Plesner Committee's recommendations as binding. Following negotiations between the various factions, the government would have adopted between 60-80% of these recommendations. Netanyahu did not have to adopt them all.


I asked Mofaz if he was coordinated with Barak. Most government officials are under the impression that Barak backs Mofaz on this issue, and the defense minister's representative at the committee, Einat Wilf, supports the recommendations that have been drafted thus far. "Barak will do whatever he wants," Mofaz said. I asked him if there was a possibility that a new law would not be introduced and that – theoretically – all ultra-Orthodox will be required to enlist in the IDF (due to the expiration of the Tal Law, which exempted haredi yeshiva students from army service).


"It's inconceivable. Netanyahu and I promised to pass a law. I don’t think that Barak, as defense minister, can allow such a scenario to unfold," he said.


Kadima agreed to join the coalition after Netanyahu made four promises to Mofaz. Following yesterday's developments, Mofaz doubts the sincerity of the remaining three promises. In other words, he believed Netanyahu for about a month, but he does not believe him anymore.


A political crisis is problematic, but it also presents an opportunity. As the crisis deepens, those involved become more flexible and more willing to compromise.


The members of the Plesner Committee are certain that the current crisis will lead to early elections after Kadima leaves the coalition. But I suggest that they be patient, because parties to do not quit the coalition that easily.



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