UPDATE 9:00 am Friday:
There are no reports of terrorist activities overnight or this morning in Israel.
Several months ago, your humble servant blogged about the Tal Law that exempts ultra-orthodox 18 year olds from Israeli military or national service if they are studying in a yeshiva (religious school). Most Israelis find the law reprehensible because it discriminates between potential enlistees on the basis of religious belief; not surprisingly, the Israel Supreme Court has agreed and ruled that the Law must be voided by the end of July.
The Knesset Committee that has been assigned with coming up with a replacement for the Tal Law is the Plesner Committee, named for its chairman Yohanan Plesner of the Kadima party. Yesterday this committee ignited a firestorm of protest by letting it be known that it would recommend that Israeli Arabs NOT be required to perform military or national service.
Immediately, FM Lieberman announced that his party, Yisrael Beiteinu (Our Israel), would no longer participate on the committee, and the representatives of the Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party led by chairman Daniel Hershkowitz declared shortly thereafter that they were quitting the committee as well.
For its part, Yisrael Beiteinu threatened this morning that it was bringing a new law to the floor of the Knesset that would draft every citizen at age 18: secular, ultra-orthodox, and Arab. Yisrael Beiteinu’s threat is not an idle one. Lieberman apparently has an overwhelming majority (95 out of 120) of lawmakers ready to vote to support the law.
The problem is Kadima–some of whose ministers (in concert with the Arab members of the Knesset) seem determined to give the Arab sector an exemption.
For his part, PM Netanyahu seems to have awakened from his slumber in the face of the Lieberman threat and is holding “emergency talks” with Kadima leader (and Coalition “deputy”) Shaul Mofaz this morning about how to solve the “crisis.”
A spokesman for Netanyahu said that Plesner of Kadima “made a discretionary mistake when he voted to keep Arabs out of the bill. His mistake led to this crisis. Lieberman and Netanyahu see eye to eye on this issue. There must be a mandatory draft for both ultra-orthodox and Arabs.”
An hour later, Netanyahu had this to say himself: “There is a new reality in Israel, and everyone must share the burden. It’s a matter of principle, and I am against exempting Arabs or ultra-orthodox from army service.”
A matter of principle? There is a new reality all right, and it is Avigdor Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu’s insistence on equal treatment of all Israeli citizens in terms of military and national service–an insistence that resonates with virtually every Israeli.
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The Plesner Committee of the Knesset, named for its chairman Yohanan Plesner of the Kadima party, has been assigned the