Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said his Yisrael Beiteinu party would vote against any bill that does not require all Israelis to enlist in the IDF or the national service program at age 18.
During a meeting of party members on Monday, Lieberman said Yisrael Beiteinu would table its own bill, which was drafted by Knesset Member David Rotem, as an alternative to legislation currently being advanced by the ruling Likud party and Kadima.
According to the Likud-Kadima proposal, which is based on the recommendations of the Plesner Committee, about 80% of draft-age haredi Jews would perform either military or civilian national service by 2016. However, haredim would have the option of deferring their service until the age of 22-23. In addition, legislation regarding the recruitment of Israeli-Arabs may be postponed.
"I must say that I do not understand (MK Yohanan) Plesner, the committee and its recommendation to defer the service of haredim to age 22-23," Lieberman told the Yisrael Beiteinu faction meeting.
"It makes no sense. Yisrael Beiteinu demands that the legislation require all Israelis who have reached the age of 18 to enlist in the army or perform national service. This is the basic requirement. There is no reason why young Jews, Muslims or Christians should not be recruited at age 18," he argued.
"We have a historic opportunity (to enact a universal draft law) – there won’t be another. There is a majority in the Knesset, the public and even the press. For the haredim and Arabs, enlisting in the army offers an opportunity to integrate into Israeli society. The vast majority of Arabs want to integrate into society.
Meanwhile, Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz told a meeting of his Kadima faction that the government hopes to put the bill up for a Knesset vote next Monday, but added that he was "skeptical."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that he has put together a team to draft an alternative to the Tal Law, which expires in August. Minister Moshe Ya'alon and MK Plesner, who were put in charge of the team, convened for the first time later in the day. They are expected to submit a proposal by Wednesday.
Sources close to the negotiations told Ynet that Netanyahu is seeking a gradual process that would incorporate haredim in the IDF. "Enlisting everyone at the age of 18 is not feasible," one source said, noting that recruiting yeshiva students at the age of 25-26 could be a possible compromise.
But social activists dismissed this possibility as unacceptable.
"We found out today that enlisting haredim at the age of 23 would cost the state half a billion shekels a year," said Boaz Nol, who heads the "suckers" camp. "This doesn't make sense and it won't happen. We demand them to be recruited at the age of 18, like every other citizen of the State of Israel."
FM Lieberman continued to say that regardless of the government's plans, Yisrael Beiteinu would bring its version of the universal recruitment bill up for a preliminary Knesset vote on Wednesday.
"We will all vote in favor of the legislation – with or without the coalition's backing," he said Monday.
"In any case, we (Yisrael Beiteinu members) will vote against any proposal that does not include the sentence 'obligation to enlist at age 18.'"
Lieberman stressed that his party does not intend to quit the coalition.