Photo Credit: Eyal Margolin/Jini
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday night approved a four-month extension for the government to pass the new IDF draft, after which Haredi youths who come of age would have to enlist according to the current draft law. The state had asked for seven months. The justices determined that the new draft law would have to be approved by the beginning of December 2018.

The request for a postponement was the result of fierce disagreements among the coalition partners regarding the provisions of the law, which was passed in a preliminary reading by a vote of 63 to 39. No doubt, this is the best possible draft law the Haredim can expect:

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In practice, the new law would give the Haredim absolute exemption from enlistment, with neither criminal nor economic sanctions. The definitions for who is a Haredi remain very broad, so that a large number of non-Haredim would be counted as enlisted Haredim and help meet the quotas. This includes former Haredim ages 14 to 18 who no longer practice their religion.

It just can’t get better than that for the Haredi parties, and yet at least one partner of the United Torah Judaism Knesset faction, namely Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman, presumably on behalf of the Gerrer Rebbe, opposes the bill. In early July, Litzman told the Knesset plenum, “If the draft law passes through a third reading, we will leave the coalition.”

Referring to the parliamentary maneuver by Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid, who voted in favor of the new bill after, as member of the previous coalition government introduced a draft law with criminal sanctions against Haredi draft dodgers, Litzman went on to say that “no one thinks or dreams that if Lapid supports this law, we would support it.”

Lapid, for his part, recognized an opportunity to reach a peaceful accord with the Haredim, with what is a draft law by name only – because Lapid does not wish to sit on the opposition benches forever, and joining the next Netanyahu government would most likely mean co-existing with Haredi partners. But Litzman would have none of that, demanding, “We must reach such a situation whereby anyone who wants to study in a yeshiva in Israel must be eligible for an arrangement that allows him to continue studying undisturbed, so we will vote against this law.”

The fact is the Haredi parties want the new law, recognizing how easily Haredi yeshiva students would be able to avoid the draft while, at the same time, being able to ditch the stigma of draft dodgers and receive a free pass to Israel’s free labor market. All they have to do between now and December, is sell it to their rabbinic masters.

MK Yair Lapid for his part, welcomed the court’s decision. “The High Court is right, the law is ready, there is no reason to allow Netanyahu to waste more time,” Lapid said. “Netanyahu does not need time, he needs courage.”

Courageous politicians. Now there’s a rare commodity if ever there was one.

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