Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) announced Monday at the Knesset podium that “if the draft law passes its third reading, we will leave the coalition.” He went on to say that “no one thinks or dreams that if Lapid supports this law, we will support it. We must reach a situation whereby anyone who wants to study in a yeshiva in Israel must accept an arrangement that allows him to continue to study and not be disturbed, and so we will vote against this law.”
Overnight Tuesday, the Knesset passed in a preliminary vote the IDF draft bill by a majority of 63 to 39. Opposition MKs were furious with Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid for voting for the bill, despite the fact that the Zionist Union had planned to turn a possible defeat of the bill into a vote of no-confidence against the Netanyahu government.
The bill, promoted by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, amends the defense service law yet again to compel Haredi Israelis to enlist in the army. This element of the draft law has undergone countless incarnations, with numerous outlines which have been proposed and shelved over the years. In 2012, the High Court of Justice annulled a version of the same law under which an estimated 3,000 Haredim were enlisting each year. The court decided that pace was just too slow, and forced the government to come up with a new version that introduces many more Haredi recruits over a few years, by September of 2018.
Of course, there’s no way this explosive bill could be done and voted on by this deadline – seeing as it could spell the collapse of the Netanyahu government – and so, immediately following the plenum’s preliminary approval, the state is expected to request a deadline extension from the High Court.
The curious thing is that the current draft amendment talks about enlisting 3,000 Haredim in the first year, as well as 600 who would join the National Service. These are the same number which the court rejected in 2012. But it was a different court, so all bets are off. Also, it should be noted that what was considered an acceptable norm to the Haredim in 2012, is now seen as an expression of government tyranny by the same Haredim. Today, Litzman strives for an absolute and sweeping exemption for every Haredi yeshiva student who does not wish to enlist, and no sanctions.
A fine mess you got us into, Dorit Beinish, former President of the High Court of Justice.
The Knesset goes on vacation on July 22 and comes back for the fall session in October, at which point the prime minister will likely disperse his coalition government and call for new elections. The next coalition government could be cobbled together without the Haredi parties, at which point a mini civil war could erupt over the Haredi draft.