Just two months ago Kadima submitted a bill indicating that personal sanctions on draft evaders was unwarranted, that the enlistment age for ultra-Orthodox men should be 26 instead of 22, and that enlistment goals should be the focus of any new draft law as opposed to setting quotas of students who would be exempt and allowed to study at yeshivas. This proves that Kadima has backtracked on every main issue that is currently under debate, and if Sunday morning's cabinet meeting is any indication, Kadima's time in the coalition could soon be coming to an end.
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) told the cabinet ministers Sunday morning that "Kadima wants to dismantle the partnership; everything is just a game," to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replied "There's a lot of truth to that."
Immediately following last week's rupture between the Likud and Kadima amid efforts to compose a new law to replace the existing Tal Law (which exempts ultra-Orthodox men from mandatory military service), Kadima claimed that Netanyahu had backtracked on prior agreements.
Kadima's representative on the legislation team, MK Yohanan Plesner, said that Netanyahu did so due to pressure from the haredi factions.
For his part, Likud representative Vice Prime Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon maintained that Kadima's claims were nothing but spin and that there was no real reason for the negotiations to have broken down.
Since the negotiations were held in a closed forum, away from the public eye, the positions held by either side are given to interpretation. But two documents, drafted just two months ago, prove that Kadima is the one backtracking from its previous positions in regard to the most sensitive questions.
One of the main points of contention that led to the dismantling of the Plesner committee (created to provide recommendations for a new draft law), revolved around imposing personal sanctions against draft evaders. The committee determined that in addition to revoking certain benefits, punishment for draft dodgers should include a monetary fine of up to 7,500 shekels ($1,900), with an additional 75 shekel ($19) fine for each day of failure to report for duty.
Plesner insisted on preserving the personal sanctions clause, despite Netanyahu's objections, arguing that without such a clause it would be impossible to enforce haredi enlistment.
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Two months ago, as stated, Plesner submitted a different proposal, which half of the Kadima party signed, in which there was no mention of any monetary fine under the clause of "revoking the rights of those who fail to enlist."
Another essential issue that ended up dividing Kadima and Likud refers to the maximal enlistment age. Kadima claimed that the Likud's demand to set the age at 26 would mean higher costs and would damage the principle of equality, because everyone who is not haredi is required to enlist at the age of 18.
Plesner, however, also thought, a mere two months ago, that there was nothing wrong with haredim enlisting at the age of 26, just as the Likud is now proposing, and to which Kadima is strongly objecting. Plesner's original proposal stated that "the defense minister is authorized to postpone a person's enlistment to any of the security forces for up to one year … as long as the sum of the postponements does not exceed a period of eight years."
An issue of no less importance currently under disagreement revolves around whether or not to set a limit on how many haredim can avoid the draft in order to continue studying Torah. Kadima's position is that a limit should be imposed on the number of Torah students allowed to stay in yeshiva, while the Likud believes that the focus of the law should be on determining enlistment goals instead. It turns out that Kadima felt entirely differently about the matter two months ago.
When Kadima joined the coalition two months ago, a coalition agreement was signed, in which it was clearly stated that "enlistment goals will be determined based on a process of incremental growth over a period of years." There was no mention in the coalition agreement about capping the number of exemptions for yeshiva students.
In light of this report, Kadima issued a response saying that "the best thing right now is not to deal with spins, but rather to focus on the essentials and advancing a new draft law. Even if two months ago there were those who thought differently, the Plesner committee was since created, wherein experts in the field and officials from the defense establishment and finance ministry expressed their positions, and whereby a new model was determined.".
From our opinion page:
Dan Margalit | Let the IDF decide
MK Otniel Schneller | On draft law, don't ignore ideology