As an IDF reservist, I have been serving more than 50 days a year – for the past 16 years. There are many others like me out there. Some serve more, some less. But we all put our lives on hold to do our part for the country. Sometimes we are called "salt of the earth," and other times we are referred to as "war criminals," but after seeing how the coalition folded in the face of the pressure from the haredim, you can just call us suckers.
The Plesner Committee was established after the High Court of Justice determined that a compromise similar to the Tal Law was unconstitutional and violated the principle of equality. Why is such a compromise unconstitutional? Because a democratic country cannot grant more privileges – such as exemption from various civil duties – to one specific sector of society and deny other sectors the same rights.
The committee was given a mandate to draft a law that would incorporate haredi and Arab citizens into the framework of the army or the national service program. The committee came under intense pressure from various elements that sought to weaken it. And for the most part, they succeeded. To demand that the system provide separate frameworks to accommodate the ultra-Orthodox, and by doing so undermine the principle of "the people's army?" Sure. To defer the yeshiva students' military service and undermine the principle of "universal recruitment"? Of course. And now, a moment before we attained peace of mind in the form of a second Tal Law, the committee insisted on the imposition of personal sanctions against those who refuse to enlist. The haredi wheelers and dealers cried "Gevald!" and threatened that the ultra-Orthodox public would now allow the State to enforce the new law.
A sovereign country should not be dependent on the good will of its citizens – it can enforce its policy. The State of Israel is capable of evicting citizens from their homes against their will, collect taxes, disperse demonstrators, provide a host of services to its citizens and maintain one of the most developed security apparatuses in the world. Sovereign Israel can impose sanctions on haredi draft-dodgers if it wishes to do so.
The government and the prime minister who heads it are willing to miss a historic opportunity to create a new, more equal society in Israel – just to avoid a rift with their "natural partners" in the coalition.
Democracy at risk
Throughout the Plesner Committee's deliberations, it was stressed that the country's security-related needs would not be compromised in any way. But why is the State willing to compromise its democratic character? The government of Israel initiated a process that obligates it to promote legislation based on the "equal share of the burden" principle. Universal service for all 18-year-olds. The voting public will not accept anything less.
In deciding to disband the committee, Netanyahu took upon himself full responsibility for the issue of equal distribution of the burden. The prime minister realizes that a headache pill in the form of another Tal Law won't help Israel. It needs open-heart surgery. The scalpel in Netanyahu's hand will have to cut through the seam between Judaism and democracy. The prime minister will have to find a solution that will touch the heart of the secular consensus – the army – as well as the heart of the haredi sector's consensus – Torah studies.
Netanyahu must create a new reality in which citizens from all segments of society coexist, and not live at the expense of one another; a reality in which everyone shares the burden – seculars, religious Jews, ultra-Orthodox and the minorities.
The ball is in Netanyahu's court. Let's hope he doesn’t sprain his ankle when he kicks it.
Captain (res.) Yoav Kish is one of the leaders of Suckers’ Tent, a non-governmental protest group spearheading the effort to combat haredi draft-dodging