Once again, we are in the midst of a new coaltion crisis over drafting the replacement for the Tal Law. As of this afternoon, the Likud and Kadima were far apart on the two key issues: First, whether or not there should be a fixed number of army exemptions allotted for Haredi Yeshiva students, and whether or not there should be strong personal consequences for those who do not get an exemption, and who still choose not to serve. The Likud came out against a fixed number of exemptions and against strong personal sanctions. The Likud’s recently stated position is one that tallies well with the demands of the Haredi parties, especially Shas. It would seem that the Prime Minister has decided, at least today, not to chance losing future support from Shas.
Likud’s position on the draft bill became perfectly clear this morning as I listened to an interview with Bougi Ya’alon, the former Chief of Staff, and the minister currently tasked by Netanyahu to work out the difference with MK Plessner. Ya’alon claimed that if it had only been someone else from the Kadima party negotiating instead of Plessner, they would have easily reached a compromise bill to present to the K’nesset. What Ya’alon was really saying, was, if only a real politician, who was willing to sell out his core principals was negotiating, then things would be different.
The actual points Ya’alon made for the alleged disagreements were even more absurd. First he said there was no need for limits on army exemptions for Haredim, manipulating the numbers to claim that 2,000 out of the 7,000 potential Haredi soldiers are currently serving. Thus, we are headed in the right direction, so why upset the boat? (The real number is 3% of the eligible Haredi population). Ya’alon also made the same point about personal sanctions. Stating that, if, at some point, the Haredi community does not reach the goals of community-wide army service, then we can talk about sanctions. This suggestion is a clear way of making sure that nothing ever happens.
Ya’alon’s central point, however, is most misguided. He stated that we must not do anything that will cause a “Kera Ba’am”, loosely translated, as a “tear” or “rip” in the people. This also translates into not taking any action that will cause the Haredim to withdraw their support from the Likud. What Ya’alon, as well as Netanyahu, clearly do not understand, is that absolutely any serious change from the current situation will be fought tooth and nail by the Haredim. When would you rather have this fight? Now, or in ten years, when their numbers will give them twice their current power? (Oh, I forgot long-term planning has never been the forte’ of Israeli politicians.)
One final thought for the day. Today marks the 6th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War. A war similar to the Yom Kippur War (on a much smaller scale). It was a war that we ended up winning, but at a toll that was unbearably high. There are many other differences between the two wars, but I will not turn this into a history lesson. Events of the last two days, however, underscore how unaccountable Israeli politicians have become. The talk the last two days about Olmert’s political comeback are absurd. I am not talking about the continued stink of corruption that surrounds him. Any reading of the Winograd Committee report on the Second Lebanon War should have made it clear to all that Olmert should have retired from politics. Then, and certainly now, no one should be excitedly talking about Olmert’s potential political comeback. Of course, the other person in the news today was Ya’alon, the chief of staff immediately prior to the war, and the chief of staff who was responsible for the sad shape that the army was in when the war began. However he too has totally avoided any personal responsibility, not even giving lip service to his role in the many failures of the war.