Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opened his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday by addressing two important topics: the ongoing internal conflict Israel faces as a result of the hareidi draft law, and Western powers' talks with Iran.
"Two years ago, I declared that the government would enact a law which would increase the equal burden of service, and that we would do so without inciting public disarray," Netanyahu began. "I think that the process is underway now, and that we must take care to carry it out while maintaining the unity of the people. At the same time, I would like to emphasize that I would like to see more sectors in Israeli society share that burden."
Hareidi leaders have expressed strong opposition to criminal sanctions for yeshiva students, and some pro-enlistment leaders have warned that strong sanctions could create a backlash that would mean fewer hareidi men in the army, not more.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reassured the hareidi public last week that the drama over the criminal sanctions is overhyped. “I won’t be a part of sending Jews to jail for studying Torah," he declared.
The new law was brought back into the public eye following a High Court ruling suspending funding to yeshivas whose students had their enlistment deferred. That postponement was ordered by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon to give the Shaked Committee time to finish its work.
While the ruling was thought to be meaningless, given that February's yeshiva funds had already been allocated, Finance Minister Yair Lapid took advantage of a loophole to retroactively cancel funding to all yeshivas earlier this month, sparking massive hareidi protests.
On Germany, Talks, and Iran
"Tomorrow, Chancellor [Angela] Merkel will be here," Netanyahu continued. "She is coming here as a friend of Israel and with a large entourage. We are holding talks with them to increase cooperation between the two countries."
"Of course, the two biggest issues facing the state of Israel will be on our agenda," he clarified. "Regarding the subject of negotiations with the Palestinians, I will clarify that the infrastructure of a peace agreement depends on mutual recognition in the international community of two states - namely that the Jewish state recognizes the Palestinian state, and the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state."
"In addition, I will weigh in on the nuclear talks [with Iran]," Netanyahu added. "I see with concern that Iran believes that it will realize its plan to be a nuclear threshold state, with the ability to continue enrichment, develop nuclear weapons, and develop surface-to-surface intercontinental missiles without being interfered with."
"This - a combination of enrichment, weapons and launch capability, says that Iran actually gets everything and gives virtually nothing. This is the current situation."
"We cannot allow a permanent agreement to perpetuate the situation," he continued. "It should dismantle Iran's ability to produce nuclear weapons [. . .] this has not yet been achieved, and without intervention by [Western] powers it will not be achieved."
"I hope that Germany and the other parties in the P5 +1 will stand firm on demands pose a real prevent Iran from being a nuclear threshold state," Netanyahu stressed.
Germany and Israel have held regular "government consultations" since 2008, an arrangement where the two sides meet at regular intervals to discuss specific topics. The last one was held in Berlin in December 2012 and during that meeting, Merkel and Netanyahu “agreed to disagree” over Israeli construction in areas the Palestinian Authority (PA) claims for a future state.