‘There won’t be equal burden, but rather a reduction in inequality’

MK Ayelet Shaked is pinning her hopes on integrating the ultra-Orthodox community into the workforce • “Whoever talks about equalizing the burden is wrong — enlisting in the military is a privilege, not a burden.”

Ayelet Shaked from Habayit Hayehudi

Ayelet Shaked from Habayit Hayehudi

Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked, the head of the Knesset’s Special Committee for the Equal Sharing of the Burden, responded on Tuesday to criticism committee’s bill.

Shaked said the bill would not bring about complete equal sharing of the burden. “It is not a law of equality, but it is meant to reduce the inequality,” Shaked told Israel Hayom in an interview.

Shaked said targets for enlisting ultra-Orthodox men into military and civil service — some 5,200 men according to proposals in the new law — are no different than what is actually happening in reality. “If the state would budget ultra-Orthodox enlistment, and the army would take the situation seriously like it did last year — the new law would be unnecessary and there would be no need to replace the Tal Law.

“Whoever talks about equalizing the burden is wrong. There isn’t equality, there is a reduction in the gap of inequality, and there is no burden because serving in the army is a privilege. Our goal is to make sure the ultra-Orthodox sector will integrate into the workforce, which is a very important goal.”

Shaked said she had asked the army to look into alternatives to extending women’s military service, and that she would not give up on shortening the time for men.

Discussions continued Tuesday as the committee argued over the military service of Zionist yeshiva students. Representatives of the ultra-Orthodox community, MKs Moshe Gafni, Meir Porush, and Ariel Atias actually came to the defense of the Zionist yeshiva students who serve in the army, after learning that the new law allows them to study until the age of 23 before enlisting.

“You want to destroy the rabbinate and the judgeship. If they enlist in the Israel Defense Forces at age 23, they won’t have rabbis and teachers at an advanced level. Why not let them continue studying?” MK Gafni said.

“If you pass this law, we will not obey it,” Porush said.

On the other hand, Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah said he has great respect for Zionist yeshiva students because 80 to 85 percent of them serve in combat units.

After a heated debate, the committee approved the clause that would allow yeshiva students to defer their military service, and continue studying, until the age of 23 — with the exception of 300 students that can delay their service until age 26.

The committee also discussed the enrollment of Chabad men. “Every year, dozens of Chabad students evade the military by going abroad at age 17 or 18 for a few years. Those who come back are sentenced and forced to serve,” the Israel Defense Force representative, Brig. Gen. Gadi Agmon said.

The committee decided to vote some time next week on further reservations to integrating yeshiva students in the IDF.

“After cancelling the Tal Law that was not equal, we are heading towards an agreement which is even less equal. What is being done here is in legal doubt,” said Professor Yedidia Z. Stern, Israel Democracy Institute vice president of research, adding that talks of criminal penalties can’t hide the fact that next year there will be fewer haredim enlisting.

At a graduation ceremony for the IDF Ground Forces officer training course on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I want to see on this parade ground a more equal representation of all parts of our society. This is true and correct for everyone and we are currently working in this direction.”

Antisemitic incident: Jews asked to get off at Auschwitz on Belgian train

An unidentified passenger on Belgian train line hijacks PA system and makes anti-Semitic announcement.

Passengers aboard a Belgian train from Namur to Brussels were stunned to hear an unusual message on the train’s PA system: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching Auschwitz. All Jews are requested to disembark and take a short shower.”

The Janaury 31 incident led the Belgian rail company SNCB to file a police complaint over incitement to hatred.

TV station RTL reported that the unidentified passenger hijacked the PA system at 5 pm, peak time. He made his anti-Semitic remarks in French, according to the station.

The incident was reported to Viviane Teitelbaum, a Jewish lawmaker in the assembly of the Brussels region.

Teitelbaum told RTL he spoke to a person who was on the train, who told the lawmaker he suspects the passenger is a part of a group of teenagers who managed to grab a conductor’s keys, that allowed them to gain access to the PA system.

A similar incident occurred in 2012 on the same train line, when the perpetrators – who were never caught – said “Welcome to this train heading to Auschwitz. All Jews are requested to disembark at Buchenwald.”

Iran threatens U.S, Israel

Chief of staff warns Tehran’s enemies and regional states against military action, calling American threats ‘political bluff’

In the latest in a series of warnings against the US, Iran’s chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi warned the Islamic republic’s foes that Iran is prepared for a “decisive battle” if attacked.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on stage during a meeting with Iranian air force commanders in Tehran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on stage during a meeting with Iranian air force commanders in Tehran

“We are ready for the decisive battle with America and the Zionist regime (Israel),” Fars news agency quoted Firouzabadi as saying Wednesday.

He also warned neighboring nations not to allow any attack to be launched on Iran from their soil.

“We do not have any hostility toward regional states, but if we are ever attacked from the American bases in the region we will strike that area back,” he said.

Washington has many military bases in the region, including in Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said late last month that if diplomacy with Iran fails, “the military option of the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do.”

But Firouzabadi accused the US of bluffing.

“Over the past decade, they brought their forces but came to the conclusion that they can’t attack us, and left,” he said, dismissing the US military threat as nothing but a “political bluff.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the West should not have any delusions about using a military option.

“I say explicitly, if some have delusions of having any threats against Iran on their tables, they need to wear new glasses. There is no military option against Iran on any table in the world,” he said.

On Sunday, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy Commander Ali Fadavi said the US knows that its aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf would be sunk if it launched a military strike on Iran.

“The Americans can sense by all means how their warships will be sunk with 5,000 crews and forces in combat against Iran and how they should find its hulk in the depths of the sea,” said Fadavi, according to Fars news agency.

“They cannot hide themselves in the sea since the entire Middle East region, Western Europe, the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz are monitored by us and there is no place for them to hide.”

Also Sunday, Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan touted the Iranian military’s ability to respond to an American attack, Fars reported.

“The Iranian Armed Forces are an intertwined and coherent complex that can give a decisive response to any threat at any level and any place under the command of the commander-in-chief,” Dehqan said in a ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of the revolution that brought the current Islamic regime to power.

“The enemy can never assess and think of the range of the response given by the powerful and mighty Armed Forces of the Islamic Iran,” he added.

The bellicose rhetoric follows Saturday’s announcement by an Iranian admiral that Iran had dispatched warships to the North Atlantic, while Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced the Americans as liars who, while professing to be friends of Tehran, would bring down his regime if they could. He also said it was “amusing” that the US thought Iran would reduce its “defensive capabilities.”

On Friday, Iranian state TV ran a documentary featuring a computerized video of Iran’s drones and missiles bombing Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ben-Gurion Airport and the Dimona nuclear reactor in a simulated retaliation for a hypothetical Israeli or American strike on the Islamic Republic.

Iran is due to resume talks on Monday in Vienna with the P5+1 — Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany — aimed at reaching a comprehensive nuclear accord following a landmark interim agreement struck in November.

Western nations have long suspected Iran of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons alongside its civilian program, allegations denied by Tehran, which insists its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.

Neither the United States nor Israel has ruled out military action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, if diplomacy fails.

Abbas’s new red line: Israeli withdrawal within 4 years

‘Palestinians will not sign a deal without explicit recognition of East Jerusalem as their capital, full prisoner release’

Preempting the American framework agreement for a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal expected within weeks, the Palestinian presidency on Wednesday issued a list of “red lines” stating PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s nonnegotiable positions.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, told the official PA daily Al-Ayyam that the American paper must include an Israeli withdrawal “from all Palestinian territories occupied in 1967″ within a time frame of three to four years, followed by the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The agreement must also explicitly refer to East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.

Abbas’s list of “red lines,” sent to the Middle East Quartet ahead of its meeting in Germany in early February as well as to US President Barack Obama, also includes a call to solve the refugee issue based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194, and a refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“These are the red lines of the Palestinian position, since without these principles there can be no just and comprehensive peace in the region,” Abu Rudeineh said.

The four-year time limit for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank contradicts comments made by Abbas in an interview with The New York Times on February 2, where he allowed five years for a full Israeli pullback. Abbas made no reference to the comprehensive prisoner release in that interview, though he voiced this demand in a public speech to East Jerusalem activists in January.

In a televised interview for the INSS conference in Tel Aviv a few days earlier, Abbas set the limit for Israel’s withdrawal at three years.

In any event, senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath was doubtful on Monday that negotiations with Israel would continue beyond their original April deadline, due to American support for Israel’s demand to recognize it as a Jewish state and to maintain a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley.

“Negotiations will not be extended [beyond their original nine-month time frame] if these conditions persist,” Shaath was quoted by the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi as saying.