Ma’ariv reported that Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni is expected to submit a bill today regulating the compulsory military and national service of every Israeli citizen who reaches the age of 18, following the Supreme Court’s decision to kill the Tal Law – which had attempted to bring Haredim into the IDF fold. The proposal applies to Jews and Arabs, and evaders will be subjected to two to five years in prison. Only a small group of students, athletes, and outstanding religious scholars will receive exemptions from service.
It appears that Livni, who in March will be facing a primary fight to the death over her continued leadership of the largest party in the Knesset—which is nevertheless in the opposition—will be staking her political future on the conscription of yeshiva students.
“Contrary to the Prime Minister, who intends to establish a committee to bury the issue, I undertake to do everything to promote the bill in the current Knesset or right after the elections,” Livni said last night. “This proposal will be our election banner.”
Livni’s move is smart and could prove useful in helping to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition government, in which two key partners, Yisrael Beitenu and Shas, hold diametrically opposed views on Haredi military service.
According to blogger Jeremy Saltan, of Jeremy’s Knesset Insider, quoting a Panels Polling Company’s internet-based poll which was broadcast on the Knesset Channel 99 (Israel’s C-SPAN) on February 22, Netanyahu’s Likud will remain at the top with 30 seats, but the nationalist block drops to 64 seats. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu comes in with 14 seats. Shas drops to six seats, UTJ drops to five. The National Union will get six seats.
Kadima is only expected to score 13 seats, giving up more than half its current parliamentary holdings to a recovered Labor Party.
In Livni’s new bill, those who did not complete their full military service will be called to do national service, performing civic chores, and will be entitled after their stint to all the benefits awarded to regular enlisted soldiers.
“I’m sick and tired of hearing that it’s impossible to implement the law, because the Haredim or the Arabs don’t want to join,” said Livni. “Israel is a state of laws and raises its hands in surrender. Except until now the Orthodox have refused to serve, because they had political power to impose their wishes.”
An interview the Jewish Press published with Haredi journalist Israel Gelis revealed that thousands of Haredim have enlisted in the IDF since the enactment of the now defunct Tal Law.