(May 27, 2019 / JNS) Over the past 71 years, Israel has managed to build cities, form a powerful military, launch daring missions behind enemy lines, send a spaceship to the moon and much more. But for some reason, we have been unable to resolve the hot-button issue of whether or not to draft haredi men.
For some reason, this issue has become the make-or-break issue in successive governments, even though the proposed legislation would have never actually changed things and the drama over the most recent bill is just a tempest in a teapot.
The most recent bill has been used as a means to rally the haredi street, but this is a fake outrage because the new bill actually expands the criteria for exemption and its supposedly mandatory quotas for haredi conscription have long been met.
The bill passed its first major hurdle in parliament last July. The haredi lawmakers were not present in the plenum and didn’t vote, but worked behind the scenes to make sure it passed the first reading. The haredim know that this is the best bill they will ever get, but have been unable to publicly embrace it because of internal pressures within haredi circles that got out of control.
Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman has refused to join the coalition unless the bill is passed as is. He may be correct on the merits, but he is not acting wisely. The issue of haredi conscription is not what drives him; he is motivated by a desire to bolster his reputation.
The haredim only want minor tweaks to the bill. Their relative strength is such that they could have very well asked for it to be rewritten, but they chose to accept 90 percent of the language Lieberman had proposed. Lieberman has made demands so ambitious that he is now bogged down in ego wars and arm-wrestling.
As a result of this pointless behavior, Israel has found itself once again marching toward an election. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Lieberman are now trading barbs as if the campaign were still in full swing, but they have a long history of publicly locking horns only to make up later.
Just before the most recent election, Lieberman resigned from Netanyahu’s government, called him “Mr. Flip-Flopper,” a “liar” and a “fraud,” but then once the election was over, asked President Reuven Rivlin to appoint Netanyahu prime minister and said he wanted to join his fifth government. This is politics.
Will we head to the polls again? We will find out in four days, when Netanyahu’s deadline to form a government expires.
Yehuda Shlezinger writes for Israel Hayom.
This column first appeared in Israel Hayom.