Israeli draft panel submits view, defies Netanyahu
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.
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