"The distribution of the burden must change, what has been will not be allowed to continue," Netanyahu promised. According to the activists who were present at the meeting, the prime minister was resolved and promised: "If necessary we'll go to elections over this."
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"This is our second meeting in the last few months; I know there are many hitchhikers who voted in favor of an automatic extension of the Tal Law, I'm not one of them. The Tal Law will be replaced by a more equalitarian law, a more just law, and I will be the one to put it forward.
Demonstration against Tal Law in Tel Aviv (Photo: Yaron Brener)
"The new law will include civil service for Arabs. It should be done without pitting one sector against the other. The change will involve (…) budgetary increases. This goal is of the highest priority to the State's security."
The Tal Law provides the legal framework for ultra-Orthodox men to defer IDF service indefinitely.
Netanyahu (L) meets with 'suckers' (Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO)
According to Boaz Nol, one of the leaders of the protest who attended the meeting, the prime minister told him that he intended to bring his own proposal, one similar to Yisrael Beiteinu's, before the Knesset for approval during the current session. "If necessary we'll go to elections over this," Netanyahu told Nol.
Nol told Ynet: "If he is sincere, we'll congratulate him; if this is a (political) trick, we'll fight him."
The prime minister invited the activists to meet with him at midnight, at the same time he published statements vis-à-vis the possibility of moving the election date up. "I will not be in a reality where I am a victim of extortion at the hands of the coalition partners. I'm not afraid of elections," Netanyahu stressed.
Many officials within the political establishment believe that the elections would be moved up in light of the apparent billions in State budget cuts as well as the battle over the Tal Law, which is set to expire in August following a High Court ruling.
Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz estimated that elections would take place in the middle of October, and with that in mind, several proposals to bring the elections forward will be brought before the Knesset by the Meretz, Labor and Kadima parties, respectively.
Meanwhile, Shas leader and Interior Minister Eli Yishai said: "We are ready for elections at any time." The minister stated that while he didn't want an election, he believed that Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman did.
"No party is ready for elections more quickly than (Shas)," Yishai said. "The campaign has begun on the backs of the ultra-Orthodox; they think that brings them more mandates. The campaign will be rife with hate and anti-haredi propaganda," he added.
MK Nissim Zeev, also from Shas, said Netanyahu would not be able to back up his "hallucinatory" and "despicable" statement "because you cannot force recruitment on the haredim, just as you cannot force it on the (Israeli) Arabs.
"Everyone knows there is no legislative measure that can change the face of Israeli society," the lawmaker told Ynet. "All of the experts, including former chiefs of staff, have said that this is not the way to change things."
Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) denigrated Netanyahu's call for universal draft as "cheap populism."
Speaking to Ynet, Litzman pointed out that the issue of exempting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from military service was part of the binding coalition agreement and stressed that the ultra-Orthodox parliamentarians would "not give up on yeshiva students' legal status, the principle being that anyone desiring to study Torah should be allowed to."
Yair Altman, Attila Somfalvi, Kobi Nahshoni and Yoav Zitun contributed to the report
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