Likud: 'Unity, Not Division' Over Draft Law

Likud Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar urged Monday night that what he called a “fair and acceptable” draft system be ensured.

Chana Ya'ar ,

Hareidi-religious boys in Meah Shearim
Hareidi-religious boys in Meah Shearim
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Likud Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar urged Monday night that what he called a “fair and acceptable” draft system be ensured. Speaking at the party's faction meeting, Sa'ar said all steps must be taken to “overcome the gaps in equitable service, and ensure that all serve as they must.”

Sa'ar added that “despite the behavior of Kadima in recent weeks, which seems aimed at preventing an agreement that is acceptable to all from being established, we must work to develop such a law with them.

"One of the main reasons Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu agreed to expand to coalition to include Kadima several months ago was to solve the problem of equitable IDF service, which has been an issue for 64 years, since the establishment of Israel,” he said.

Netanyahu told fellow party members at the meeting, however, that he was determined to pass the legislation regardless of whether he had the support of Kadima or not.

"Either we come to an agreement with Kadima and together we find a way to pass a new law, or we in the Likud will have to pass it ourselves,” he said, “without Kadima's agreement. Even if we do not achieve a majority in that case, we will make the Likud's position clear.”

Netanyahu said he hopes to add at least 6,000 new IDF soldiers from the ranks of the hareidi-religious population by the year 2016. He noted that in 2007, only 300 such youths had enlisted, but by this year, there were close to 2,500 voluntary recruits.

Fierce debates have broken out over the type of universal draft law that is being proposed, with one such measure being advanced on Wednesday by Yisrael Beytenu MK and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

On Monday evening, thousands of hareidi-religious men and boys gathered at Kikar Shabbat (Shabbat Square) in the Meah Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem to protest the elimination of IDF deferrals for full-time rabbinical students and others engaged in Torah studies. The elimination of the deferrals and the proposals for a universal draft have came about following the High Court decision earlier this year that ruled the Tal Law -- the basis for the deferrals -- to be unconstitutional.