Israel’s Kadima party has bolted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in a dispute over military conscription and national service for ultra-Orthodox Jews and Israeli Arabs.
Kadima joined the coalition in May in order to avoid early elections, and to make progress on four goals: passing a universal draft law, changing the system of government, reviving the peace process and passing the 2013 budget. However, Kadima and Likud failed to reach an agreement on replacing the Tal Law, under which ultra-Orthodox students can defer military service. In February, Israel’s Supreme Court declared that the Tal Law was unconstitutional, and that an alternative must be passed by the end of July.
The PM held meetings with Kadima Knesset Members early on Tuesday in an effort to convince them to remain in the coalition. According to reports, he proposed that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) would draft 50 per cent of ultra-Orthodox Jews between the ages of 18 and 23 and another 50 per cent would be drafted into national civil service between the ages of 23 and 26. However, Mofaz rejected this formulation and called for a party meeting, where all but three MKs voted to leave the government. “It is with deep regret that I say that there is no choice but to decide to leave the government,” Mofaz said afterwards.
He added: “Netanyahu’s proposal contradicts the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice, does not conform to the principle of equality, is disproportionate and does not meet the tests of effectiveness that are set down in the Supreme Court’s ruling, or the principles of the committee on equalising the burden of IDF service.”
Meanwhile, Netanyahu this morning has denied reports that he will call an early general election once the Knesset returned from its summer recess. The end of the Knesset’s current term is in October 2013.