This morning it was announced that the Kadima faction in the Knesset voted by a large majority to resign from PM Netanyahu’s so-called National Unity Coalition. That leaves the Coalition at 66 members, as it was before Kadima joined after Shaul Mofaz took over from Tzipi Livni a scant 73 days ago. They resigned over the terms of a new universal draft law to replace the Tal law that has governed conscription in Israel for the past 10 years and that included exemptions for Yeshiva students.
Israelis are made up essentially of two groups, the Zionists and the non- (or even anti)-Zionists, each of which can be further subdivided. The Zionists consist of the secular (hiloni) and the national religious camp (dati leumi). The secular may vote for Labor and centrist parties like Kadima and Israel Beitanu and the national religious faction would vote for the right wing Likud party. The non-Zionists are the ultra-Orthodox (haredim) who probably wouldn’t even vote or would vote for religous parties such as United Torah Judaism and the Arabs would vote for Arab parties.
One key distinction is that the Zionists believe in defending the Jewish State while the ultra-Orthodox believe in leaving it all in God’s hands. In this sense they are passive, just as the majority of Jews in Eastern Europe were passive, they neither fought nor prepared themselves for self-defense against a growing threat to their existence, they simply prayed more. This is what they prefer to do rather than participate in national service or in the IDF, that is the hallmark of Israeli independence and survival. The Supreme Court of Israel has ruled that the current Tal Law that governs national service in Israel is inequitable and must be replaced by another Law that is equitable by Aug 1. This has split the country and has split the National Unity Coalition.
But, there is a principle enshrined in democracy that minority rights must be protected. Certainly Jews more than any other group should protect that principle. PM Netanyahu is trying to replace the Tal Law with one that includes some form of gradual conscription of Yeshiva students and allows a certain amount of leeway in their being drafted, such as delaying the conscription of some of them who are studying. This seems reasonable and will in the long run improve the chances of having them and the Arabs conscripted rather than a wholesale all in one deal, which is probably unworkable and would involve some form of coercion. This is what Kadima bolted the coalition over, they want a purely totally equitable draft, and they say that in refusing this Netanyahu is choosing his religious coalition partners, Shas and UTJ, over them.
Hopefully there will be a new draft law before the Knesset recesses on July 25, hopefully the Coalition will remain stable as it did before Kadima came along, and hopefully Shaul Mofaz will resign as Kadima’s head and will retire from politics after such a miserable showing. If anyone thinks this form of showmanship over practical compromise will win Kadima votes in the next election, think again.