Shaul Mofaz - back in the Opposition
Shaul Mofaz - back in the OppositionIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The national unity coalition born nine weeks ago is dead, but the government lives with a solid majority of 65 Knesset Members, as it did before Kadima left the Opposition.

Party chairman Shaul Mofaz announced Tuesday evening that the party faction voted 24-3 to pull out of the coalition because of what he said was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s failure to live up a supposed agreement on changes in the draft law.

Although the concept of universal draft is the ostensible issue, Mofaz has used it is a ploy to try to boost his weakened party, but his see-saw political maneuvers may leave him as the loser. Likud officials received his announcement with comments of “goodbye and we will not meet again.”

The current Tal Law expires August 1 by order of the court, which ruled it is unconstitutional. The Tal law provided for IDF deferment for yeshiva students who learn Torah but also was aimed at increasing the number of Torah students who serve in the army.

Mofaz joined the coalition in early May, making a “universal draft” its main platform. A committee headed by Kadima Knesset Member Yochanan Plesner discussed proposed legislation to replace the Tal Law, but opposition from MKs from several parties left the panel in disarray. Prime Minister Netanyahu dissolved it, arousing the ire of Mofaz, who the following day brought out Plesner to announce the proposals.

The suggested legislation concentrated on hareidi religious youth, with heavy sanction against those refuse, while only vaguely relating to the Arab sector.

Mofaz threatened to quit the coalition, Prime Minister Netanyahu did not flinch, and now the Kadima chairman has put himself back where he was two months ago – leading a weakened party that could disintegrate in the next elections, according to the polls.

Kadima’s joining the coalition two months ago was viewed as a move that would have prevented early elections, as early as September.

Ten weeks later, Prime Minister Netanyahu theoretically could try to hold on until the end of the Knesset term in October 2013, but he is almost certain to “quit while he is ahead” and call for elections late this year or early next year.

The next 10 days are critical, because he needs to find a replacement for the Tal Law to prevent a universal draft from taking effect and throwing the IDF and the civilian service into havoc in order to try to cope with the sudden change.

Mofaz, whose political talents are shadowed by his military ability when he was IDF Chief of Staff, leaves the coalition after rejecting Netanyahu’s suggestion that hareidi religious youth could defer enlistment until age 23 while giving incentives to those who serve at a younger age. Beyond the age of 23, they would serve in the civilian service.

Mofaz charged that the proposal “contradicts the ruling of the High Court of Justice” and does not conform the principle of equality.