Ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters take part in a demonstration against members of their community serving in the Israeli army, in Jerusalem, March 28, 2017.
On June 11, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman presented a new proposal, which was outlined by a committee he established a few months ago for drafting ultra-Orthodox youth. The committee was established after the High Court ruled that the law exempting ultra-Orthodox from enlisting was unconstitutional.
Now, one week after he presented his new conscription guidelines, Liberman is confident that the ultra-Orthodox will finally come to their senses and support him unanimously, so that the emerging coalition crisis finally comes to an end. His outline will be brought before the Knesset for approval in the coming weeks. According to Liberman, it offers the only practical guidelines that both the secular and ultra-Orthodox communities can rally around, before Israeli society misses the bus.
“The ultra-Orthodox would have to be crazy to bring down this law. If it doesn’t happen now, the Supreme Court will conscript them by force,” Liberman told Al-Monitor.
Liberman is referring to efforts by ultra-Orthodox Deputy Minister of Education Meir Porush (Yahadut HaTorah) to stir up a coalition crisis, if the economic sanctions imposed against yeshivas that fail to meet conscription targets are not removed from the guidelines. As of now, this demand by Porush has not been taken up by the other ultra-Orthodox politicians. It is seen more as internal politicking, so it is getting limited attention in the larger political arena too.
Liberman is dismissive of the approach led by left-wing Meretz Knesset member Mossi Raz and others that the time has come to get rid of compulsory military service entirely. “The State of Israel could not exist with just a professional [volunteer] army. It is a big mistake to think that it is even possible,” Liberman told Al-Monitor. “Our military is built on the model of a people’s army. The two objectives set for it by our first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, when the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] was first found, are as relevant now as they were then. These are to defend our borders and serve as a melting pot. These two principles also underlie the new Conscription Law.”
Barring any surprises, there is a good chance that the new law will be approved before the Knesset leaves for its summer recess on July 22. That is because even if the new law shows enormous flexibility — some even call it “surrender” — in dealing with the ultra-Orthodox, the fight against it in the political arena, led mainly by the opposition, is being kept on a low flame. Even centrist (opposition) Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid is signaling that he will support the law, even though ultra-Orthodox avoidance of military service has been one of his banner issues for years.
It is hard to believe that the ongoing, evolving crisis over ultra-Orthodox conscription isn’t evoking the same passionate response as it once did. At one time, it led to a coalition’s collapse — when Kadima under Shaul Mofaz quit the government in July 2012 — and it built up Lapid as a powerful secular brand in the 2013 election.
In the late 1990s, the Supreme Court ruled that the defense minister does not have the authority to grant yeshiva students a comprehensive exemption from military service. As a result, the Tal Law, passed in 2002, was the first attempt to regulate exemptions from compulsory military service and encourage the ultra-Orthodox to enlist. The problem was that a decade later, in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that this “historic” law failed to achieve its objectives and rescinded it. Since then, each successive government has failed to come up with a solution that meets the Supreme Court’s standards, advances the idea of equitable service and the needs of the IDF as a people’s army, and win the support and cooperation of the ultra-Orthodox.
The governments failed in their attempts to employ a positive approach and obtain cooperation from the ultra-Orthodox, and they failed again with a more punitive approach, which included sanctions against the ultra-Orthodox.
One prominent example of this failure to reach a compromise was the decision by Kadima, led by Mofaz, to join the Netanyahu government in May 2012 to resolve the problem of equal service. The partnership collapsed just two months later because the ultra-Orthodox boycotted the process and Netanyahu folded. The guidelines suggested at the time, which included personal economic and criminal sanctions against those people avoiding military service, were seen by the ultra-Orthodox as an attempt to humiliate and even persecute them.
Another window of opportunity opened up in 2013, when Lapid won 19 seats in the election after running largely under the banner of “sharing the burden” (namely that all Israelis, including ultra-Orthodox, should enlist). He was then able to force Netanyahu to put together a government without the ultra-Orthodox. This, in turn, led to the passing of the 2014 Conscription Law, which included personal sanctions against people avoiding the draft. While Lapid emerged as the big winner then, his law was revoked in 2015 after the ultra-Orthodox parties made rescinding this law a major condition for them to join the new coalition. The fourth Netanyahu government went on to put together a new law that the ultra-Orthodox could accept, but the Supreme Court intervened again. It overturned that law in September 2017 on the grounds that it failed to correspond with basic principles such as equality and a people’s army. The court then instructed the government to pass a new law within a year.
At this point, the hot potato got passed to Liberman. That is what led to the birth of this week’s new law. The ultra-Orthodox would be able to live with it, the Supreme Court would not overturn it and, no less important than that, the highly regarded Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot would embrace it.
The new guidelines do not include criminal or personal economic sanctions against people who avoid conscription. Instead, it just imposes sanctions against yeshivas that fail to meet their conscription targets. These targets are less ambitious too, while the standard of “Who is ultra-Orthodox?” was expanded to encompass former yeshiva students who no longer devote their lives to study.
Set in terms of the turbulent years of the struggle to “share the burden” equitably, this constitutes a surrender to the ultra-Orthodox. If, however, everything that happened in the past two decades is taken into account, it looks like there is no alternative to some mutual compromise.
“It is unclear to me why the Knesset is responding to these guidelines with silent acquiescence, but I plan to lead the opposition to them,” said Zionist Camp Knesset member Itzik Shmuli, speaking to Al-Monitor. For the past few days, Shmuli has been trying to spur his party into action, out of the belief that there is a large public within Israel that sees this struggle as representative of a larger struggle for a society of equals and the refusal to surrender to the ultra-Orthodox. And of course, this would pay off electorally as well. It seems as if his efforts are starting to take hold too, with party chairman Avi Gabbay already starting to speak out against the new guidelines.
But there really is no drama. Shmuli will likely discover that in 2018, secular Israelis are either apathetic to or exhausted with the struggle to “share the burden” equitably. Given the professional and official support for the new guidelines by the chief of staff, there is a real chance that Liberman’s pragmatic approach is politically feasible. In other words, this time it could work.
Mazal Mualem is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse and formerly the senior political correspondent for Maariv and Haaretz. She also presents a weekly TV show covering social issues on the Knesset channel. On Twitter: @mazalm3
Jeremy Corbyn leads a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London in 2014, one year before becoming Labour Party leader. Photo: File.
This marked a massive rise from the previous such survey, in which only 39% of Jews believed Corbyn was antisemitic.
British Jews also expressed an extremely low opinion of the Labour Party in general. The poll showed that 85.6% believed Labour suffered from “very high” levels of antisemitism.
Corbyn and his party have been beset with a series of high-profile antisemitism scandals for several years, which has resulted in the resignation and suspension of several prominent officials. Corbyn himself was recently caught on video saying that “Zionists” did not understand “English irony” despite “having lived in this country for a very long time.”
Makuya in Jerusalem 201 (YouTube)
Like an apple tree among trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the youths. I delight to sit in his shade, And his fruit is sweet to my mouth. (Song of Songs 2:3)
For ten days in late August, Israeli Rabbi Benny Lau and his wife, Rabbanit Noah Lau, traveled from Jerusalem to Japan to lead Bible study for groups of Makuya Japanese Christians. The Laus traveled to five Japanese towns and spent three days together at a weekend conference with 3,400 members of the Makuya group.
Makuya is Japanese for the Hebrew word Mishkan, the tent of meeting, where human beings come into contact with God. The Mishkan was the portable sanctuary that the Israelites used in the desert, before entering Israel and building the First Holy Temple.
The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (Psalm 11:5)
Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. (Credit: Agencia O Globo)
Jair Bolsonaro, the front-runner in the upcoming presidential election in Brazil, was stabbed during a campaign rally Thursday and was undergoing surgery.
The far-right politician, whose heated rhetoric has electrified some voters and angered others – -who accuse him of racism and homophobia – in a deeply polarized electorate, was attacked amid a crowd in the south-east state of Minas Gerais. Bolsonaro has performed strongly in recent opinion polls.
Those same polls suggested that he will likely receive the most votes in next month’s presidential elections, especially if the country’s former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (‘Lula’) remains blocked from standing. He is currently in prison, but is appealing against his candidacy ban – imposed after his conviction for corruption.
Republican lawmakers have made it clear they have no intention of repealing Obamacare in the current Congress.
Republicans in the nation’s top lawmaking body have never really wanted to get rid of Obamacare. They would prefer to present the program, which David Horowitz correctly describes as “the greatest assault on individual freedom and individual choice in our lifetimes,” as a villain and whip up sentiment against it and run against it every election. They view Obamacare as good for the business of politics. They may chip away at it from time to time or tinker with it at the margins, but make no mistake: these creatures of Washington want to keep it in place. This is the Republicans’ dirty secret.
The Trump administration has decided to reopen a case brought by a Zionist group against Rutgers University, previously closed by the Obama administration in 2014, alleging that the university had allowed Jewish students to be subjected to a hostile environment in violation of Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The issue, ignored by the Obama administration, was whether the students were discriminated against based on their actual or perceived Jewish ancestry or ethnicity. Kenneth L. Marcus, the new assistant secretary of education for civil rights, decided that the case deserved another look.
Nestled in the Han River in the middle of South Korea’s bustling capital of Seoul, Yeoui Island is hardly where one would expect to find the largest mega-church in the world. Home to the city’s business and financial district, its skyline dotted with skyscrapers, the island boasts some of the country’s most powerful institutions, such as the Korean stock exchange and the headquarters of LG, the international conglomerate.
The AfD’s opponents, who often brand the party as “far right” or “extremist,” claim that the party’s alleged ties to neo-Nazi groups pose an existential threat to Germany’s constitutional order. The AfD’s supporters counter that Germany’s politically correct establishment, afraid of losing its power and influence, is attempting to outlaw a legitimate party that has pledged to put the interests of German citizens first.
Israel’s Palestinian foes regard “martyrdom” as the supremely highest expression of Islamic sacredness. Nonetheless, there are certain conspicuously prominent disjunctions between the relevant obligations of faith and expectations of international law. Unambiguously, only the latter set of obligations can offer a suitably authoritative source for assessing Palestinian resorts to armed force.
This is the case even when the stated objective of such resorts would be “self-determination” and/or “national liberation.”
“Setting fire to the ground,” a “major catastrophe,” bringing “new instability” are the headlines that have greeted Donald Trump’s unorthodox decisions over the past year. Withdrawing from UNESCO, moving the US Embassy, leaving the Iran deal and cutting funding to UNRWA and funding for Pakistan were seen as extreme decisions in the Middle East and around the world. Insofar as there is a “Trump Doctrine,” it has been to call this bluff.
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The jihadi assault on and massacre of Christians continued unabated throughout the Muslim word. According to one report titled, “Armed gangs WIPE OUT 15 villages in mass Christian slaughter in Nigeria,” several Islamic terrorists “stormed through 15 villages to massacre Christians and destroy their churches in a violent crackdown against the religion…. Dozens of people have been killed after the gangs ransacked towns and villages to clear them of all aspects of the Christian faith.
Wars are raging in various parts of the Middle East, although there is a tendency not to call the conflicts by that name because of the fear conjured up by the word.
One conflagration is the war Iran is waging against those – headed by Israel – who stand in the way of its plans to take over the entire Middle East.
Another is the Assad regime’s war to take back control of the entire country, and a third is the PLO’s battle for survival.
Much has been written about the first of these wars, and reports have claimed that from early 2017 on, Israel has launched over 200 attacks in Syria, mainly at targets connected to Iran.