JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's new hawkish bloc will do away with a contentious system of draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men if it forms the next government, Israel's deputy foreign minister pledged Wednesday.Well let's hope they do, but I think the ball really is in Shas' court this time, and they must agree to end the draft exemptions.
If the vow is implemented, it would put the recently formed bloc on a potential collision course with its likely religious coalition partners.
The issue of the draft exemptions has become a major source of friction in Israel, and the outgoing government failed to meet a Supreme Court order to abolish the system. Heading into elections in January, the issue is now caught in legal limbo.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, a member of the secular Yisrael Beitenu Party, said the government failed to find a new formula thus far for the draft because of objections by the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party. Both Shas and Yisrael Beitenu are key members in the current Israeli government. [...]
Ayalon said the partnership with Likud has changed the rules of the game and that if Shas wanted to be part of the next government, it would have to agree ahead of time to universal drafting and electoral reform in Israel.
Otherwise, "they won't be part of the government," Ayalon told The Associated Press.
In a country where military service is compulsory for all Jewish males except the ultra-Orthodox, the draft exemptions have created widespread resentment toward the religious.
Shas and Israel's religious leaders resist any change to the draft system, which allows most ultra-Orthodox men to skip military service in favor of study in their insulated seminaries.
Polls show the teamed-up Likud-Yisrael Beitenu ticket to be far ahead of any other party in the countdown to the elections. But the bloc will still need to form a coalition with other parties to gain a majority in the 120-seat parliament. Ultra-Orthodox parties like Shas have traditionally aligned with Likud.
Despite Ayalon's remarks Wednesday, Yisrael Beitenu and Shas have sat together in the current government for nearly four years. Many analysts expect the two will find ways to bridge their differences in the next government as well.
But it's not so that Shas has usually aligned with Likud - they willingly formed a government with Labor in 1992 and even in 1999, and in 2006 with Kadima. In other words, their loyalty to the country in itself is not solid.
Ayalon said the new Likud-Yisrael Beitenu bloc would have a better bargaining position over the draft exemptions issue.Well it's decidedly time to put an end to such influence.
"I think we will have a better weight and we will also have choices," he said in a veiled threat. "I don't want to preempt. We'll see."
He spoke after meeting in Jerusalem with Anglo supporters, most of whom oppose the exemptions.
Religious parties, which often serve as kingmakers in Israeli politics, have used their political muscle over the years to guarantee the draft exemptions.
Secular Israelis see the draft controversy as part of a bigger conflict over the character of the country. They have also expressed alarm over ultra-Orthodox efforts to segregate the sexes in public, their heavy reliance on welfare handouts, and a school system that teaches religious studies but few skills for the work world.Not just "secular" Israelis - even religious themselves have expressed concern. In fact, on the comments list from that page, somebody said:
I am an orthodox ZIONIST Jew who welcomes a politician with the COJONES to tell the ultra religious that either they participate in the COSTS of a nation both economically, ethically and morally, or they should not expect to reap the benefits of the country. The ultra right got a SMALL EXEMPTION forty years ago and have leveraged it into a windfall at the expense of moral resentment by those who are not religious. Plainly, IT IS NOT FAIR.Bingo! It most definitely is time for someone on the right to send a message to the Haredi parties that exploiting the wider public and stooping to victimology cannot go on. Somebody on the right has to stand up to these pretentious Haredi politicians already, and Ayalon was right to do so.
You want the benefits of a citizen, YOU PAY THE PRICE of that citizenship in responsibility to the country, in taxes and in your behavior. PERIOD.