Benjamin Netanyahu faces crisis over draft dodging rebellion

A committee has said that 80 per cent of ultra-Orthodox Jews should do national service

Benjamin Netanyahu's two-month-old broadened coalition hit its first crisis yesterday over the controversial issue of compulsory military service for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Shaul Mofaz, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the centrist Kadima party, warned that the Israeli Prime Minister had a "matter of days" to implement the report of a committee chaired by a Kadima Knesset member recommending a major increase in military service by the ultra-Orthodox.

The threat of a walkout by the party, whose entry to the government expanded the ruling coalition to a formidable 94 out of 120 Knesset seats, follows a decision by Mr Netanyahu to "dissolve" the committee in the face of opposition to the proposal by the ultra-Orthodox party leaders in his coalition.

Nevertheless, the committee chairman, Yohanan Plesner, went ahead yesterday by announcing his recommendation that 80 per cent of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men of draft age should be in military or alternative civilian national service by 2016. Under the Plesner plan, ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers could face fines or even criminal punishment, and lose property tax and housing benefits as well as education scholarships. The widespread exemptions on the grounds of religious study would be narrowed to a mere 1,500 outstanding students per year.

"The report is the result of the first major test of our partnership with the Prime Minister and the Likud," Mr Mofaz told a Kadima party meeting. "I expect the Prime Minister to adopt the committee's decisions. This is a condition for us to remain in the government."

The exemptions for religious study started soon after the state's foundation when 400 students were allowed to forgo military service to build up religious scholarship wiped out by the Holocaust. That number has grown to about 60,000 today.

The Tal law governing the present exemption system has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The ruling was one of several factors that led Mr Netanyahu to call a September election – until Kadima shored up his coalition.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...