Netanyahu, Mofaz meet over haredi draft law

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Kadima Party head Shaul Mofaz to head off a political crisis over a new haredi draft law.

No details were provided following the hourlong meeting Thursday afternoon, though the two agreed to meet again next week. But Israeli media reports said that Netanyahu told other coalition partners that he would support personal sanctions on those who evade military service, which the haredi Orthodox Shas Party opposes and has threatened to pull out of the government over.

On Wednesday, the Plesner committee, which was charged with formulating a new law on haredi Orthodox military service, released its preliminary findings, despite being dissolved two days earlier by Netanyahu. The committee’s report calls for universal service for all Israeli citizens, including mandating the draft of haredi Orthodox men and upgrading the National Service program for the Arab sector. It also calls for formulating an effective enforcement system and incentives for serving.

The report calls for individual financial sanctions against draft evaders, as well as sanctions against yeshivas that prevent their students from entering the draft.

In February, the Israeli Supreme Court declared that the Tal Law, which allowed haredi Orthodox men to defer service indefinitely, to be unconstitutional, and set Aug. 1 as the deadline for a new law to be passed.

Mofaz has threatened to pull his party from the national unity government that was formed two months ago over Netanyahu’s decision to dissolve the committee. Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset, joined Netanyahu’s governing coalition with the stated objective of formulating a new military service law.

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