“Arab citizens, along with the chareidim, must carry their equal share of the burden,” Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu said Thursday evening, shortly after the Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi factions announced their decision to quit the Plesner Committee.
Earlier it was reported that the committee, which is debating alternatives to the Tal Law, will likely recommend that the State not require Israeli Arabs to perform military or national service.
“There is a new reality in Israel, and everyone must share the burden,” Netanyahu told Arab lawmakers, adding that he will object to draft exemptions.
Lieberman informed Netanyahu that his faction would halt its cooperation with the committee and would bring to a vote in the Knesset a bill authored by MK David Rotem that would make national service mandatory for all sectors of Israeli society, including Arabs.
Yisrael Beiteinu called the committee’s decision “damaging to the importance of equal service” and said that the faction believed that there was only one way to achieve an equal share of the burden, and that was to draft every citizen at age 18: secular, charedi, and Arab alike.
A source close to the prime minister said that committee chairman MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) “made a discretionary mistake when he voted to keep Arabs out of the bill. His mistake led to this crisis.”
The source said “Lieberman and Netanyahu see eye to eye on this issue. There must be a mandatory daft for both haredim and Arabs.”
Netanyahu told the Arab MKs he would not bring to a Knesset vote a bill that does not require Arabs and ultra-Orthodox to enlist in the army. “It’s a matter of principle, and I am against exempting Arabs or haredim from army service,” the premier stated.
“There is a new reality in Israel, and everyone must share the burden,” he said.
PM Netanyahu is expected to meet with his deputy, Shaul Mofaz, to discuss ways to resolve the political crisis surrounding the committee’s recommendations.
Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, head of the religious Habayit Hayehudi faction, told the PM its representatives were leaving the committee over the decision not to require Arabs to enlist.
“Those who receive from the State must also contribute to it,” he said.
“Without the Arabs’ contribution – there is no equal distribution of the burden.”
DISSOLUTION OF PLESNER COMMITTEE
Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the dissolution of the Plesner Committee on Monday during a meeting at his chambers.
The committee was tasked with drafting an alternative to the Tal Law, which effectively exempted ultra-Orthodox from army service.
“Unfortunately the Plesner Committee failed to reach an agreement due to the withdrawal of some of its members and is unable to draft recommendations that will secure a Knesset majority,” he said. “The committee has been dissolved. I thank the five representatives for their hard work.”
Speaking to Minister Shaul Mofaz, he said, “Let’s take the over the reins together and bring about a solution.”
Earlier on Monday, senior members of the coalition claimed that Netanyahu had decided to dissolve the Committee after Yisrael Beiteinu, Habayit Hayehudi and haredi representative Yaakov Weinroth resigned. It was expected that Coalition Chairman MK Zeev Elkin would be the next to quit.
Senior political elements voiced concern that MK Elkin would also quit the committee after the departure of three other members. But speculation that Netanyahu was aiming to dissolve the body has been circulating for the past week.
“If understandings with Kadima on several relevant issues are not reached soon, Elkin will be the next to leave,” one of the sources said. Kadima elements accused Netanyahu of pre-planning the dismantling of the committee and coordinating the move with the haredi parties led by Shas.
“This is a premeditated move which includes Elkin’s withdrawal, the dissolution of the committee, the dismantling of the unity government and a High Court motion for deferral,” a Mofaz associate said.
Meanwhile, Shas senior officials confirmed that the move had indeed been coordinated with Netanyahu.
“This is a plan to bury the universal draft bill,” a Kadima source said earlier in the day. “The dissolution of the committee would mean Kadima’s immediate withdrawal and the end of the unity government.”
Attorney Yaakov Weinroth, who is the representative of Shas and United Torah Judaism to the committee, announced Sunday evening that he was resigning from his post.
Weinroth sent a letter in which he stated that the committee acted irresponsibly in handling the sensitive issue of recruiting haredim into the IDF. According to Weinroth, “Forceful actions, even if they deliver results in the short-run, are destructive in the long-run.”