"Israel is on the brink of a historic change. Any sensible person understands that serving in the army is part of the country's DNA," Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz told Ynet on Monday in the aftermath of a stormy week in which he was harshly criticized over his conduct surrounding the IDF draft crisis.
On Sunday Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Knesset Member Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) began drafting a bill that aims to replace the Tal Law and equalize the burden of IDF service.
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"We're headed in the right direction," Mofaz said, adding that he is confident the bill will pass a preliminary reading at the Knesset plenum next Monday.
The Kadima leader, who also serves as vice prime minister, said he had no intention of quitting the coalition after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved the Plesner Committee without his consent.
The committee was tasked with drafting a bill that would require ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Arabs to enlist in the IDF or perform national service.
'Unfazed.' Mofaz at Saturday's protest (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Mofaz described last week's political crisis over the issue as a "disagreement."
"Kadima's proposal and the Plesner Committee's recommendations serve as the basis for the bill that is currently being formulated. The law will introduce a new social covenant in Israel. We didn't join the coalition to leave it. We joined to achieve four goals – the most important of which is an alternative to the Tal Law. Now we have a historic opportunity to make it happen," he told Ynet.
'Kadima was very determined.' Mofaz with PM (Photo: AP)
On Sunday Netanyahu's Likud faction unanimously approved the Plesner Committee's recommendations after tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday to demand equal sharing of the burden.
In the interview with Ynet, Mofaz refused to criticize Netanyahu's zigzagging on the issue, but said that should the government fail to enact a universal recruitment bill and "no significant historic change is made," his Kadima party "will not be in the coalition. It will be part of the opposition."
"Eventually, everyone realized this – including the prime minister. There are times when you have to be determined. (Kadima) was very determined, and this is the result," Mofaz said.
Mofaz attended Saturday's "suckers" demonstration in Tel Aviv, which was organized by IDF reservists and social activists demanding equal army service. He said the protesters' jeers did not faze him. "I identified with the protesters. Their struggle is also my struggle and my children's struggle. Any politician who participates in a protest will be yelled at, but most people know that my main achievement in life was serving 40 years in the army.
"We saw what happened to Kadima during its three years in the opposition," Mofaz said, in a thinly-veiled swipe at his predecessor, Tzipi Livni. "We were irrelevant. Today we are relevant and we set the public agenda. Many of the protesters approached me and said they appreciated the work we do (at Kadima)."
He said most of the protesters who booed him were supporters of Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid or Labor's Shelly Yachimovich.
"I definitely learned a lesson in politics this past week," the former IDF chief said in conclusion. "But there was a struggle, and we showed determination. I think the outcome was very good. But nothing is over. There are still a number of issues we have to vote on."