The Peri Committee, convened Sunday to vote on the different articles of the proposed outline for haredi enlistment, deadlocked over a disagreement between committee chairman, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri and Defense Minister Ya'alon, regarding the protocol for granting exemption from IDF service.
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In a surprise move, Ya'alon demanded that the committee withdraw its proposal to obligate haredim to enlist after a three-year period and leave the issue to the defense minister's discretion. He is also against imposing sanctions on draft dodgers. Yesh Atid is claiming that the minister is effectively demanding that haredi enlistment be taken off the agenda.
MK Mofaz, who pulled out of the unity government last year after the dissolution of a committee tasked with drafting proposals for equal share of the burden, also criticized the prime minister and urged Yesh Atid to stand its ground. "Don't compromise the principles which got you in the government," he said.
Moshe Ya'alon and Amir Peretz (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
"Again we see Netanyahu – through his defense minister – chickening out and voiding the IDF draft law. The law specifically states that whoever does not enlist is sanctioned. We must not sustain the status quo and let Netanyahu's fear of the haredim crush the fight for equal share of the burden."
Members of Yesh Atid said that the issue threatens the coalition's very existence. Minister Peri posted a message on his Facebook page in which he explained his decision to call Sunday's meeting to a close.
"After a long night in which many articles of the bill – some of them historic amendments – were approved, I adjourned the meeting. The surprise resistance of some of the ministers to the universal draft and application of the draft law on yeshiva students forced me to make a decision.
"Universal draft is the heart of the new draft bill and I have no intention of yielding this principle. We are committed to improving the share of the burden – we shall not break our promise."
Yesh Atid's Ofer Shelah also stressed that the party will not compromise any bill that fails to solve the problem. The only bill possible in the current legal climate is the one put forward by Peri."
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett has admitted there was a crisis yet attempted to calm things down. After his representative at the committee, Construction Minister Uri Ariel, pledged his support to Ya'alon's position, Bennett said "I think these are natural birth pangs to a solution for a 65-year-old problem. We are heading toward the solution and disagreements are only natural, it can take another day, two or three, but in the end we'll reach a compromise. We'll find the formula."
Bennett added the government should stand firm on certain clauses of the bill, but avoid waging war on the world of the yeshivot. "I think there are a few principal points a continual emphasis on which would bring about the break through. We have to provide incentives so that it be an actual law rather than a virtual one, so that we see haredi youths join the service."
"The other principle is that we mustn't ruin what we have achieved by invoking the idea of enforced conscription," the official added. "You can't create a scenario of military police storming Bnei Brak. Right now there's a real, honest wish on the part of the haredi to join the service yet this should be done gradually and not by force. Should we try to proceed by force, it will only take us back."
During the discussion, sections of Peri's outline were brought up and voted down. The clause regarding the extension of service time was reduced to add a single month to the current 16 (rather than eight, as was originally proposed). Another section that drew objections concerned holding criminally responsible the heads of yeshivot whose students fail to conscript.
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