After several weeks in which it seemed that the gaps between the sides in the coalition negotiations on burden equality could not be bridged, we’re now being told, according to Maariv, that a solution is near. Senior Likud negotiators said Tuesday night that they are close to an agreement with the Jewish Home over an outline for equal burden legislation. According to those sources, the Jewish Home team told them they are authorized to negotiate on behalf of Yesh Atid as well.
At this point, sources in both teams are saying they are close to an agreement, at least over the recruitment age for Haredim: 21. This figure is a kind of compromise between age proposed by the Likud-Beitenu: 24, and the Yesh Atid position: 18.
There were huge problems with the age 24 idea, which was, in essence, a Trojan horse pushed in by the Haredi parties through the Likud-Beitenu team. First, in terms of the recruit’s usefulness to the IDF, at 24 he is basically unavailable to combat duty. Also, by the time he is 24, the average Haredi man could be the proud father of several children, which entitles him to a significant military stipend. In other words: at 24 he is more trouble than he’s worth.
Also, the Jewish Home team was arguing that the same Supreme Court that killed the previous Tal Law on grounds of inequality will no doubt reject the age 24 idea on the same grounds. Even at age 21, the Haredi recruits are only expected to serve two years—which is very likely to be challenged in front of the court by anyone who didn’t make it into the government and isn’t Haredi.
Incidentally, according to Maariv, Jewish Home and Yesh Atid do not agree on the enlistment of another, much larger segment of the population, the Arabs, who have been just as useless to the community at large as the Haredim, but comprise 20-25% of the population, as opposed to the estimated Haredi 8%. While Jewish Home would like to see the Arabs shouldering the burden like the rest of Israel’s young men and women, Lapid’s party is not as shocked and anguished over Arab inequality, possibly because they like them more than they do Haredim.
One message is clear, for now: according to Jewish Home sources, the Likud-Beitenu team has given up on trying to split the Bennett-Lapid pact. This might mean that Benjamin Netanyahu’s and Avigdor Liberman’s worst nightmares could be realized over the next four years, namely that those two young, sassy winners will use their stay in power to push their respective parties to an even bigger share of the vote next time around.
On the other hands, when you’re in charge of actual government ministries, things can happen…
Finally, whether or not the next coalition will include Shas and Torah Judaism, the 17-seat strong Haredi block, it appears that their two “traditional” portfolios, Interior and Housing, Shas’s source of patronage jobs and huge influence over Israeli society, is lost to them, at least for now. It isn’t clear yet, however, whether those two rich portfolios will be given to Bennett’s party or kept in Likud-Beitenu’s embrace.
Being kept apart from its traditional lifeline could spell the beginning of the end for both sectarian Haredi parties, who’ll start losing followers to the broader-based Jewish Home. Coupled with the probable, at this point, appointment of National Religious Rabbi David Stav to Chief Rabbi, this could mean the beginning of a new golden age for Religious Zionism.
Put that in Obama’s pipe and let him smoke it.