Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians will be forced to complete military or community service with the Israeli army, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party announced it would back a controversial plan for reforming the country’s laws.
Meeting in Jerusalem, the party said it would support the recommendations proposed by the so-called Plesner committee last week which also include forcing orthodox Jews to serve.
“The party this morning discussed and unanimously adopted the principles laid out by the Plesner commission,” Likud spokeswoman Noga Katz said in a statement.
The decision means the government will now move towards drafting a law requiring all sectors of Israeli society to complete either military or community service, with penalties to be levied on those who fail to comply.
There are around 1,500,000 pre-1948 Palestinians, who Israel refers to as Israeli Arabs, inside the Jewish state.
Netanyahu’s spokesman Ofir Gendelman later confirmed that there would be no exceptions for Palestinians, many of whom see the Israeli army as a source of oppression.
The new law will replace the so-called Tal Law, which contained national service exemptions for ultra-orthodox Jews and Palestinians, but was overturned by Israel’s High Court earlier this year.
Likud’s decision to back the recommendations of the commission appeared to head off the possibility of a coalition crisis.
The Kadima party headed by Shaul Mofaz, which joined the government in May giving Netanyahu a massive parliamentary majority, had threatened to quit the coalition over the issue of military service for all.
But after the Likud party decision, Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister and Mofaz had agreed on the formation of a panel to draft the new law.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and vice prime minister Shaul Mofaz are in agreement on the formation of a commission charged with drawing up a law on the equality of service to be presented at the next government meeting,” the statement said.
Military service is compulsory for most Israelis over the age of 18, with men serving three years and women two.
The Israeli army brutally suppresses Palestinians calling for equal rights and was recently accused of aiding fundamentalist Jewish settlers shooting Palestinian protesters.
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