The opposition is outraged by MK Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid faction decision to vote in favor of the coalition’s IDF draft bill, even after the Zionist Union had announced it planned to turn the vote on the bill into a no-confidence vote that could topple Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Chairman of the Zionist Union Knesset faction Yoel Hasson made it clear that his party would turn the vote on the draft law into a vote of no-confidence against the Netanyahu government. Hasson tweeted: “It means that whoever votes in favor of the bill gives the Netanyahu government a green light to continue. Yesh Atid and the Haredi parties will have to decide next Monday where they stand: for or against the government. Being against the bill and against the government is what’s expected of an opposition.”
The controversial military draft bill is expected to be presented to the Knesset plenum for its first reading this week. Lapid says he would vote with the government, because the proposed bill is, essentially, his bill from the time he served in the PM’s previous government. “There is no change, we will vote in favor of the draft law,” Yesh Atid stated Saturday night, which means the bill will likely pass, despite opposition from the Haredi coalition partners.
Lapid wrote on his Facebook page Saturday: “This is actually a Yesh Atid law. It is no accident that the Haredim are against it. It was born in the wake of our victory in the High Court of Justice. Its basic principles are derived from the law that we passed in the previous government. The chief of staff and the IDF have signed on to it, and most importantly, it will lead to more Haredim enlisting and more Haredim entering the labor market.”
As to the claim that the new bill does not impose criminal sanctions on Haredi draft dodgers—said sanctions constituting the biggest objection of the Haredi parties to previous versions of the IDF draft bill—Lapid wrote that there actually are sanctions implied in the latest version: “The bill explicitly states that if, after three years, the Haredim do not meet recruitment targets, the criminal sanctions will come into force. In addition, the law states that draft evaders (including secular Israelis) will go to jail.”
As to Labor’s charge that Lapid is sabotaging its attempt to take down the Netanyahu coalition government, the Yesh Atid Chairman stated he had no illusion about the chances of the no confidence vote, because Netanyahu would avert a Haredi rebellion inside his cabinet by appealing to the High Court for more time.
In mid-2017, the High Court of Justice ruled that an IDF draft law that allowed exemptions from enlistment for Haredim should be annulled because it violates the idea of equality. But the justices ruled that the law would be revoked only a year from the date of their ruling, to give government time to fix it. They noted the fact that since the draft law had been enacted fewer Haredim were enlisted, which harms the notions of proportionality and equality.
It was the second time the High Court of Justice overturned a Haredi draft law, after deciding in 2012 that the Tal Law’s deferment of service to Haredi yeshiva students was unconstitutional (meaning it contradicts the Knesset Basic Laws – Israel does not have a constitution).
The previous government passed Yesh Atid’s Equal Burden Law, but the next coalition government—without Yair Lapid and with the Haredim—revoked that law, and entered this revocation as a clause that was inserted into their coalition agreements with the PM.
The new Knesset approved by a majority of 49 to 36 an amendment that postponed the implementation of the previous law by six years and effectively removed the obligation of Haredim to enlist. The court killed it a year ago and this weekend, all the chickens, in olive-green and black uniforms, will be coming home to roost.