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.
- Palestinian stabbed, shot in settler attack near Nablus (alethonews.wordpress.com)
BETHLEHEM – Detainees on Monday signed a deal with the Israeli prison authority to end their mass hunger strike, officials told Ma’an.
Prisoner representatives from each of the factions agreed to the deal in Ashkelon jail, prisoners society chief Qaddura Fares said in a statement.
Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet confirmed the deal, the Israeli news site Ynet reported.
Senior Hamas official Saleh Arouri, who was a member of the negotiations team, said Israel agreed to provide a list of accusations to administrative detainees, or release them at the end of their term.
In comments to the Hamas-affiliated new site Palestine Information Center, he said that under the Egypt-brokered deal Israel agreed to release all detainees from solitary confinement over the next 72 hours.
Israel will also lift a ban on family visits for detainees from the Gaza Strip, and revoke the “Shalit law,” according to the official.
The “Shalit law” restricted prisoners’ access to families and to educational materials as punishment for the five-year captivity of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Shalit was freed in October in a prisoner swap agreement.
All or nothing
Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Ma’an that all prisoners must end the hunger strike within 72 hours, and not later refuse food, for the deal to hold.
Around 2,000 prisoners joined a mass hunger strike launched on April 17 to demand fair prison conditions, according to prisoners groups’ estimates.
Another group of prisoners held in administrative detention launched an earlier strike in protest at their detention without charge, including Bilal Diab, 27, and Thaer Halahla, 33, who have gone for 77 days without food.
Their lawyer Jamil Khatib told Ma’an that Diab and Halahla were informed of the deal earlier Monday. They were told the agreement includes their release at the end of their detention term but both refused to stop their strike unless they were immediately released, Khatib said.
On Monday evening, a relative of Halahla said the long-term hunger-strikers were still deciding on next steps. Prisoners society lawyer Jawad Bulous is heading to the prison hospitals to discuss the deal with hunger-strikers, minister Issa Qaraqe told reporters.
Power of non-violence
PLO official Hanan Ashrawi applauded the deal and said it proved the power of non-violent resistance.
“The Palestinian prisoners in facing the Israeli Prison Authority is a victory not only for them and their families, but also for the millions of Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory and in exile,” Ashrawi said in a statement.
“The hunger strikers’ courage is magnificently inspiring, and their selflessness deeply humbling,” the official added.
She also thanked Egyptian mediators, the international community “and people of conscience worldwide” for supporting the strikers.