Jerusalem: Israel's vice premier demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accept a panel's contentious guidelines for reforming the country's military draft rules, but stopped short of explicitly threatening to quit the governing coalition if the Israeli leader refuses.
Shaul Mofaz, chairman of parliament's largest party, Kadima, told reporters Netanyahu "crassly" violated their coalition agreement on Monday when he disbanded the panel, which proposed ending sweeping exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men and penalizing them if they dodge the draft.
Many Israelis deplore the privileges that the ultra-Orthodox receive, but Netanyahu is reluctant to alienate what are traditional supporters by adopting proposals they vehemently oppose.
"If the proposals aren't adopted we won't be able to look our sons and daughters in the eye," Mofaz said at the start of a Kadima faction meeting. "The ball is in the prime minister's court. It's a matter of days."
Despite his tough talk, Mofaz gave himself plenty of wiggle room. He demanded that Netanyahu accept the "principles" of the panel's proposals and not its details, and gave the prime minister no deadline for complying.
The two men don't have much time to dither: Israel's Supreme Court has ordered the government to modify its draft law by Aug. 1 to end the privileges for the ultra-Orthodox, who account for nearly 10 per cent of the country's 8 million people and maintain they are serving the state by serving God.
The current law has exempted tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews from serving in the military, even though conscription in Israel is supposed to be compulsory, with men over 18 serving three years in the military and women two.
First Published: Wednesday, July 04, 2012, 23:58