PM insisting Knesset vote on draft bill opposed by Haredi parties in its current form; nevertheless expectations are that bill will be allowed to proceed and be amended later to avoid current law expiring and consequently mandating across-the-board enlistment of yeshiva students.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told coalition party leaders on Sunday that he intends to bring the IDF draft bill to the Knesset for its first reading next week despite fierce opposition by Haredim.

“After the bill’s first reading, there will be a discussion between all the members of the coalition in order to reach a broad consensus ahead of the second and third readings,” the prime minister noted.

The three representatives of the Haredi parties in the coalition, two of whom skipped last week’s meeting on the subject, attended Sunday’s meeting and reiterated their opposition the draft bill in its present form.

Hasidic faction MKs: Eichler, Porush, Litzman, Mozes (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky, Michael Kramer)
Hasidic faction MKs: Eichler, Porush, Litzman, Mozes (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky, Michael Kramer)


Netanyahu, for his part, told them: “I don’t want elections, but I’m not afraid of elections. And if elections do take place, I will be okay.”

The ultra-Orthodox parties’ opposition to the draft bill is based on the orders of the Council of Torah Sages of Agudat Yisrael, the Hasidic faction of United Torah Judaism (UTJ), to resign from the coalition if the new draft bill is approved, unless it is done in coordination with them and subject to their agreement.

Deputy Minister Yaakov Litzman and Meir Porush and MKs Yisrael Eichler and Menachem Eliezer Moses are bound by the decision.

However, the Lithuanian members of UTJ—MKs Moshe Gafni, Uri Maklev and Ya’akov Asher—as well as members of the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party Shas, are not bound by the decision.

Despite that, Shas Chairman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri still informed the prime minister his party opposes the bill in its current form as well and will vote against it in the Knesset.

Aryeh Deri (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
Aryeh Deri (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)


“As we have clarified when we received the memorandum of the bill, we view Torah study as a supreme value for the Jewish people, and we insist that every Torah scholar be able to diligently continue his studies without interference. We will not lend a hand to any harm towards those who study Torah or in the status of yeshiva students,” Deri said.

However, a senior source in one of the ultra-Orthodox parties told Ynet that they have no intention of leaving the government as long as the legislation in its current version is not fully approved.

“We will of course all vote against, but even if the bill passes, we will wait to see what happens to it afterwards, and whether the reforms we insist on are implemented,” he said. “The Hasidic Council of Torah Sages ordered the MKs to resign only if it is approved in the second and third readings, and so we will act.”

It is assumed that the ultra-Orthodox are interested in advancing the legislation, even in its present form, without supporting it in practice—apparently with the support of opposition party Yesh Atid, which has welcomed it, and with the abstention of the Joint List Party—and they are in coordination with the heads of the coalition and the prime minister.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu at coalition meeting (Photo: AP)
PM Benjamin Netanyahu at coalition meeting (Photo: AP)


Shas and UTJ representatives understand that even if there is disagreement over the details of the bill, the gist of it is positive for them, so it is better to let the legislative process proceed and to refine it later than to completely shelve it now, only two months before the expiration of the existing draft law. If the existing law is allowed to expire with no replacement, all yeshiva students will be required to enlist.

Another reason for the tacit approval by the ultra-Orthodox parties is the belief that the Knesset will not be able to complete the legislation process before September 1, and the state will ask the High Court of Justice to extend the existing law for some period until the parties reach an agreement. Coalition members believe that if they can show the court some measure of progress on the bill, in the form of approval on its first Knesset reading, the judges will agree to an extension.

The draft bill is based on recommendations submitted by the Committee to Examine the Recruitment of Haredim. Its main points relate to the addition of service tracks suited to the ultra-Orthodox public that will promote integration into the jobs market.

In addition, they recommend expanding administrative sanctions against defectors and evaders, setting new recruitment targets for the IDF and the National Service, a gradual increase in the number of those serving, significant economic sanctions for not meeting recruitment targets, and promoting benefits to all those who serve.

The committee’s recommendations stipulate, among other things, that failure to meet 85 percent of the conscription goals for three consecutive years will lead to the cancellation of the amendment to the law. In addition, benefits will be provided to all those who serve in order to reduce inequality. Administrative sanctions are to be imposed on yeshivas to combat the phenomenon of defectors and draft evaders, and the IDF and the National Service will add service tracks adapted to the Haredi public that will advance integration into the job market.

The new arrangement essentially normalizes the reality that existed until now, with recruitment targets, an amorphous concept and less concrete than the annual recruitment quotas for Haredim who will be obligated to serve in the army or in national-civic service. Therefore, it is assumed that it will not survive judicial scrutiny.

As reported by Ynetnews