The Plesner Committee, which was appointed to draft a new law for a more equal military and civic service in Israel suffered a major blow after representatives of two factions in the coalition announced that they will no longer take part in the discussions. Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) and Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) factions announced their decision to quit the Plesner Committee, citing the committee’s focus on the ultra-Orthodox community rather than Arab Israelis who are also exempt from service.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke last night with Arab Knesset members about what he described as equal sharing of the national burden. Netanyahu announced that “Arab citizens, along with the haredim, must carry their equal share of the burden.” MKs Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash ), Jamal Zahalka (Balad ) and Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al ), all of whom are chairmen of their respective parties, confirmed the conversations. Reports from the meeting suggest Netanyahu stressed that while he understood their opposition to serving in the military the national burden must be distributed more equitably, and that meant national non-military service for Israeli Arabs. Reports suggest Arab MKs strongly rejected the PM’s appeal, calling it a product of his coalition concerns, adding they still oppose the mandate of the Plesner Committee.
The Plesner Committee said in response to Yisrael Beiteinu that, “This is a populist move from a party that knows how to advocate for an equal burden of national service, but has no plans to initiate serious steps to promote it.”
The office of committee chairman MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) stated that Lieberman “announced that he would stay in the government under any condition, whatever the conclusions of the committee. This is a political game for beginners, transparent and unimaginative.”
The gridlock potentially spells a coalition crisis. One MK, Kadima’s Otniel Schneller, told Israel Radio yesterday that if the conclusions of the Plesner Committee for advancement of an equal burden are too moderate, members of Kadima will leave the party to join forces with Tzippi Livni and form a new party with Yair Lapid.