Approximately six weeks before the expiration of the Tal Law, the Committee established to develop its replacement appears itself to be falling apart. Chaired by Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, the Committee was given the responsibility by the Knesset—Netanyahu– to create some form of service for all Israeli citizens, including those who currently do not serve in the IDF or do sherut leumi (national service). The specific challenge was to find an option which would not only comply with the orders of the High Court but also of the two most exempt and delinquent constituencies, Israeli Arabs and Charedim. While it seemed a solution was emerging, it now appears that what is even more likely is that not only will the Committee not fulfill its mandate, but that the newly, fashioned governing coalition may well be in danger of collapsing as a result of this failure.
We have seen the parties on the right, Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi, walk away from the Committee because it appeared that the Committee was not going to make immediate demands on Israel Arabs for military service. Then, the Charedi Parties walked because they fundamentally were unwilling to accept compulsory military service. Now, however, because the Plesner Committee was proposing a gradual transition system of service, the Mofaz wing of the coalition, is threatening to bolt from the coalition, if the Government proceeds with anything less than immediate, full service implementation.
The fact is that Mofaz and Netanyahu are still going through their testing phase. They have settlement withdrawal and Iran to deal with so that on one level quibbling about the new Tal Law is small potatoes. This jockeying, however, is occurring where at least immediate national security is not at stake.
One needs to remember that there is an inevitable election in 18 months and that undoubtedly Mofaz will face Netanyahu. Both leaders now need to flex their muscles so that they will be Government. This interim shotgun marriage is headed for a inevitable divorce.
In all likelihood the Tal Law debate will be resolved by constructing a timetable and a phased-in implementation of some type of service for all, with more charedim still being exempted from national service. Today’s confrontation was not a totally serious challenge to the coalition, but this was a signal that developing a coalition agreement on settlement withdrawal or an Iran attack raid might not produce as constructive decision-making as had been anticipated when the coalition was formed.