Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the Likud faction on Sunday which unanimously approved the Plesner Committee conclusions after tens of thousands of Israelis called for equal share of the burden on Saturday.
Netanyahu now needs to pour substance into a new bill replacing the Tal Law and is faced with the ultimate test: Will be put forward a bill that will revolutionize national draft or will he opt for a softened bill that will appease the haredim?
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Various Likud Knesset members demanded adjustments to the recommendations, primarily the incorporation of Arab-Israelis in the IDF. Meanwhile, the protest leaders discussed their next steps.
Netanyahu opened the meeting by saying, "The new bill must change reality, gradually increase the number of those who serve and be handled responsibly to maintain national unity.
"I fully understand those who serve and their families. Everyone must share the burden. We shall give positive incentives to those who serve and negative ones to those who evade draft. Draft dodgers will not receive the same as those who serve. We are doing this 64 years after the issue wasn't handled properly. This is a historic change."
Tens of thousands protested on Saturday (Photo: Yaron Brener)
The Likud faction approved the following principles as a basis for a new bill to be decided by Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz in an upcoming meeting:
- Imposing the principle of universal service on all Israeli citizens.
- Imposing personal liability on anyone trying to evade the service.
- Offering those serving in the IDF incentives, including shorter service.
- Formulating an effective enforcement system against those violating draft directives.
- Mandating the draft of ultra-Orthodox men.
- Applying the principle of universal service to the Arab sector. National Service opportunities will be decided by the end of the year and legislation will be completed by March 2013. A note was inserted on behalf of the Likud saying there is reason for the delay.
Prior to the meeting, Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel said that the Plesner report fails to aptly address large segments of society such as women. She said she will move to implement a report discussing the enlistment of women to the IDF.
After the meeting Netanyahu and Mofaz agreed to establish a team that will formulate the bill with the aim of presenting it at the next cabinet meeting. The team includes Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon and Yohanan Plesner and will also consult with representatives from the Defense, Finance and Justice ministries as well as civil service officials. There will be no haredi or Arab representatives.
Netanyahu said that in order for it to succeed, integration must be carried out gradually and in such a way that doesn't divide the nation. "Minister Mofaz and I agreed on establishing a team to formulate the bill. We shall historically transform the division of the burden and maintain national unity," Netanyahu said.
Members of the equal share of the burden campaign appeared unfazed by the news. "This is the same pattern we saw in the past few months. Time is running out before the Tal Law expires – there is no more time for teams and spins."
The leaders of the campaign met to discuss their next step after Saturday's mass protest in Tel Aviv. They stressed four fundamental principles:
- Quotas of 1,000 outstanding yeshiva students who will be allowed to continue their studies while the rest enlist
- Substantial sanctions on draft-dodgers
- Enlistment at the age of 18
- Rewards for those serving in the IDF
"If the bill contains these principles we shall endorse it, and if not we shall hold another rally in two weeks," Itay Benhorin said. It was also decided to promote the principles at the Knesset in the coming days. National Student Union chairman Itzik Shmuli said that the students will work to keep the issue on the public agenda.
Protest leaders meet to discuss next step (Photo: Benny Deutsch)
Meanwhile, Yisrael Beiteinu party has said that it will oppose the new draft bill. "This is not the law we want. It's not from age 18 and it's not a general draft. We will not support the bill," the party announced.
Earlier, Chairman of the Joint Camp movement Idan Miller, said: "If the prime minister passes the Plesner Committee's recommendations verbatim at the Likud faction meeting and initiates quick legislation that will incorporate these recommendations, we shall regard it as a major triumph for our campaign."
He continued, "However, if the prime minister continues his political tricks, establishes another committee and tries to root out the Plesner recommendations which already represent major concessions to the haredim, we shall oppose. We shall get the masses back to the streets as we demonstrated yesterday."
Attila Somfalvi and Shahar Chai contributed to this report
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