Kadima Party Votes to Quit Coalition Government

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The Kadima Party voted to quit the government Tuesday, ending the nine-week-old unity coalition. Kadima will return to the opposition, leaving Likud with a slim majority of 65 seats.

Party chairman Shaul Mofaz convened a faction meeting Tuesday meeting a few hours after announcing that negotiations with Likud over replacing the Tal Law on national military service had failed. The party voted 24-3 to quit the government. 

Mofaz said Likud's proposal -- to draft 50 percent of the ultra-Orthodox into the Israeli Defense Forces or national non-military service between the ages of 18 to 23 and the remaining 50 percent into national service between the ages of 23 and 26 -- violates the principle of the High Court's ruling that calls for equal distribution of service.

The Tal Law never achieved its original intent to bring more ultra-Orthodox into the IDF. Instead, the majority of ultra-Orthodox Jews managed to evade military and civil service altogether by enrollment in yeshivot (Torah seminaries).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he regretted Kadima's decision to leave the government.

"I regret your decision to give up on an opportunity to make an historic change. After 64 years, we were very close to a substantial change in the division of the burden," the prime minister said in a statement issued by his office.

Netanyahu said Likud's proposal "would have led to the conscription of ultra-Orthodox and Arabs from the age of 18…without tearing Israeli society apart, especially at a time when the State of Israel is facing many significant challenges."

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, himself a former IDF chief of staff, drafted the proposal.

Mofaz said it did not fulfill the principle of shared service the Plesner Committee incorporated into its proposal.

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