As Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner announced on Wednesday the recommendations of the committee he headed which examined alternatives for mandatory military or civilian service for ultra-Orthodox men and Israeli Arabs, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scrambled to find a formula that would keep his coalition together.
Netanyahu does not want Kadima to leave the coalition. Party chairman Shaul Mofaz doesn’t want that either. Both have an interest in continuing to move forward, together.
If Mofaz had wanted to quit he would have done so Wednesday rather than issuing a polite and general ultimatum, threatening to quit unless the Plesner Committee’s recommendations are adopted. In order to justify remaining in the government, Mofaz needs a significant accomplishment, durable goods that he can show his skeptical Knesset cohort, which is fragmenting into groups and factions.
Kadima’s Knesset members will start holding negotiations soon, directly and using envoys and middlemen. For now, Netanyahu looks more worried: If Kadima leaves over the Plesner Committee, Netanyahu will come off as having given in to the ultra-Orthodox on an issue about which there is an overwhelming consensus: universal service, equal distribution of the national burden.
But if Mofaz is forced to leave the coalition he will at least have an agenda, something to run with into the next election. Something that Kadima searched for during its three and a half futile years of wandering in the desert of the opposition.
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