Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday announced the dissolution of the Plesner Committee. 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. This week I will invite the heads of the coalition parties to try and formulate a proposal that would receive a Knesset majority,” he added.
Earlier on Monday, senior members of the coalition claimed that Netanyahu had decided to dissolve the Committee after Yisrael Beiteinu, Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) and haredi representative Yaakov Weinroth had resigned. It was expected that Coalition Chairman MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) would be the next to quit.
Kadima joined Netanyahu’s coalition and invested great political capital in presenting a more equal alternative to the Tal Law. Yesterday’s announcement is a blow to the party and a personal embarrassment to Kadima chair Shaul Mofaz. The national unity government formed by Netanyahu and Mofaz less than two months ago could now break up as early as Wednesday if a solution is not found to their dispute over how to equalise the burden of IDF service.
Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, who headed the Committee, still intends to publish his recommendations on Wednesday, despite Netanyahu’s announcement that the committee had been disbanded.
Mofaz has backed up Plesner and threatened to leave Netanyahu’s coalition. “The committee was formed by Kadima and Likud together, and its unilateral dissolution by the prime minister does not obligate Kadima,” Mofaz said. “If the prime minister does not go in the right direction, the national unity government will end.”
In February, the Supreme Court ruled that the so-called Tal Law, passed in 2002, was unconstitutional and would be void as of 1 August. Military service is compulsory for Israelis over the age of 18, with men serving three years and women two. Ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arab Israelis are exempt from service.