Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima leader and vice premier Shaul Mofaz met late Thursday night in a last ditch effort to reach an agreement on equalising the burden of IDF service and to prevent a coalition crisis.
The two met privately at Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem, and following the hour-and-a-half meeting the two agreed that their representatives would continue talks Friday morning.
According to a report in Haarertz, the two will meet once more in an effort to reach a deal over the weekend, which Defence Minister Ehud Barak has said he will try to mediate. However, with both parties’ chief negotiators wedded to their position, neither side sounds optimistic.
“We haven’t yet bridged the gaps with Kadima, and I’m very pessimistic about us doing so during the current Knesset session,” said Likud’s negotiator, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Earlier Thursday, Ya’alon and MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), who were conducting negotiations over the bill on behalf of their parties, continued their dispute over the number of ultra-Orthodox students permitted to avoid the draft and what sanctions should be taken against evaders.
Israeli media reports this morning indicated that a meeting was scheduled to take place at 9:30 pm (local time) yesterday between Ya’alon and Plesner, but was cancelled by Plesner 20 minutes before it was meant to begin. According to Ynetnews, Plesner told his associates, “The matter is ready for Netanyahu’s decision. There is no point in wasting more time in futile meetings. They would have voluntary conscription by the age of 26 followed by a sweeping exemption. We advocate enlistment by the age of 22 with service duty. Whoever does not serve after 22 and is not eligible for an exemption will face sanctions.”
For his part, Ya’alon said that in the coming days, the disagreement between the two parties over the best way to draft Israeli Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox into the IDF “might create a crisis in which the coalition will be smaller, but we can survive.”
Ya’alon added that the two sides may not be able to reach an agreement by the Supreme Court’s 1 August deadline, in which case the Defence Ministry could legally draft every yeshiva student, but would decide not to whilst a solution was pending.