By Tsvi Sadan, Israel Today—
In his short announcement last night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged that Avigdor Liberman is ready to send Israelis back to the voting booth over semantics.
Knowing that the new government depends on him, Liberman, with his five Knesset seats, is leveraging the situation for a senior cabinet posting and support for his pet legislation. Though Israelis can understand an attempt to get the most out of his unique position, they, for the life of them, can’t understand why Liberman is willing to opt for another election over the “draft law” that will obligate ultra-Orthodox Jews to serve in the IDF.
The quarrel over this issue of ultra-Orthodox enlistment goes way back, to David Ben-Gurion’s decision that released from army service those religious Jews who devote their time to the study of Torah. Over the years, the few thousand Torah students Ben-Gurion had imagined ballooned to tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox opting out of the national service that every other Israeli Jew must perform.
The inequality of the situation has long enraged most other Israelis, but the ultra-Orthodox have until now been able to stymie any attempts to legislate an amendment to Ben-Gurion’s decision.
Even so, most Israelis are aware of the fact that a growing number of ultra-Orthodox Jews are voluntarily joining the IDF, which is why no one seems to understand Liberman’s staunch position, which threatens to sink coalition negotiations and necessitate a new national election just weeks after the previous one.
Responding to Netanyahu’s “semantics,” Liberman now accuses the prime minister of being dishonest. He insists that Netanyahu has capitulated to ultra-Orthodox demands. Liberman says it’s not just about the draft law, which is “just one symptom of ultra-Orthodox extremism” that seeks to turn Israel into a Halachic state ruled by religious law. Liberman is far from alone among secular Jews in fearing such an outcome. Continue Reading….