Likud backs conscription plan

Likud backs conscription plan

TEL AVIV - Agence France-Presse
Likud backs conscription plan

Protestors take part in a demonstration calling for an amendment to the country’s compulsory draft policy opposed by the powerful ultra-Orthodox community in Tel Aviv. REUTERS photo

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party announced yesterday it will back a controversial plan to compel ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arab Israelis to complete compulsory military or community service.

The decision means the government will now move towards drafting a law requiring all sectors of Israeli society to complete either military or community service, with penalties to be levied on those who fail to comply. The new law will replace the so-called Tal Law, which contained national service exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arab Israelis, but was overturned by Israel’s High Court earlier this year. Military service is compulsory for most Israelis over the age of 18, with men serving three years and women two.

Netanyahu cautioned that moves to expand the national service of Arab Israelis and ultra-Orthodox Jews “must be executed gradually and in a way that will not cause a rift in the national unity.” Meeting in Jerusalem, the party said it would support the recommendations proposed by the so-called Plesner committee last week. Likud’s decision to back the recommendations of the commission appeared to head off the possibility of a coalition crisis.

The Kadima party headed by Shaul Mofaz, which joined the government in May giving Netanyahu a massive parliamentary majority, had threatened to quit the coalition over the issue of military service for all. The issue of expanding national service to all sectors of Israeli society has proved thorny for Netanyahu, whose coalition groups secular parties like Kadima and the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu as well as ultra-Orthodox parties opposed to compulsory service.

The issue has also resonated throughout Israeli society, with thousands of Israelis taking to the streets in Tel Aviv on July 7 night to call on the government to require all sectors of society to participate in national service

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