Israel: Ultra-Orthodox military deal sealed
29 May 2013, 16:17
Jerusalem - Israel clinched a deal on Wednesday to
abolish wholesale exemptions from military service for Jewish seminary
students, ending a brief crisis that divided the ruling coalition
The issue of "sharing the national burden" is at the
heart of heated debate over privileges the ultra-Orthodox minority has
enjoyed for decades, and a government-appointed committee had failed to
formulate a new conscription law earlier this week.
Minister Moshe Yaalon, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's
right-wing Likud party, had balked at a clause under which criminal
charges would be brought against those trying to dodge conscription.
main coalition partner, the centrist Yesh Atid party, threatened on
Monday to quit the government unless the issue was resolved.
compromise that paved the way for the deal, the committee agreed on
sanctions but delayed imposing them during a four-year interim period in
which the military will encourage 18-year-old Bible scholars to enlist,
political officials said.
Under the proposed law, which still
faces ratification in the cabinet and parliament, the number of seminary
students exempted from the military each year will be limited to 1 800
of the estimated 8 000 required to register for the draft annually.
Breaking with political tradition
the agreement on the proposed law, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid told a
news conference: "The government proved it can make a change, even on
the most explosive issues."
Yesh Atid came second to Likud in the
January general election on a pledge to reduce state benefits for
Israel's fast-growing ultra-Orthodox minority and end military service
exemptions for the community.
For the first time in a decade,
Israel's government has no ultra-Orthodox members, and main coalition
partners had pressed Netanyahu to break with political tradition and
enact reforms under a slogan of "sharing the national burden".
Israeli men and women are called up for military service for up to
three years when they turn 18 years old. However, exceptions have been
made for most Arab citizens of Israel, as well as ultra-Orthodox men and