(JNi.media) There may be a coalition crisis brewing under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s watch, over a split between his two religious partners and the rest of his narrow, 61-member Knesset majority, Israeli media reported Thursday. The rift is over the new ultra-Orthodox conscription legislation, which some Likud and Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu MKs are rejecting. The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is expected to meet Thursday to approve amendments to the “equal burden” bill, in accordance with Netanyahu’s coalition agreements with the ultra-Orthodox. The plan was for the approved bill to go to a House vote next week, but now there appears to be a wrinkle in that fabric.
A group of several coalition MKs from Likud and Kulanu are opposing the committee’s proposed changes. The ultra-Orthodox, for their part, have made it clear that the issue is a deal breaker, meaning that Netanyahu would have to look for 13 new members to support him should the bill not go through the committee as agreed.
After the establishment of Netanyahu’s third government in March 2013, a ministerial committee headed by Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) recommended an IDF conscription plan that would exempt only 1,800 exceptional yeshiva students each year, demanding that the rest serve like everyone else (hence the title, “equal burden”). The Committee recommended imposing economic sanctions on educational institutions that don’t meet recruitment targets, while yeshivas with high enlistment rates would be rewarded financially. The Committee also recommended that if conscription targets are not met, criminal proceedings should ensue against individuals refusing to enlist. The legislation was passed in March, 2014.
Last Monday, the Knesset approved in a first reading the draft amendment to the conscription law, postponing the application of criminal sanctions against ultra-Orthodox recruits, and extending implementation procedures of the existing law which was passed by Netanyahu’s 3rd government. The postponement of criminal sanctions is part of the coalition agreement signed by Netanyahu 4 with the ultra-Orthodox parties. Netanyahu and the coalition faction whips made a commitment to Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) to being the amended law to a second and third readings in ten days from last Monday.
The new law proposes two adjustment periods, one to be extended until June 30, 2020, to allow for an examination of the law’s effectiveness, followed by a second adjustment period, lasting through June 30, 2023. If enlistment figures by then would comply with expectations, the law would stay as is; otherwise, the defense minister of that time would be free to alter the arrangement to reach the recruitment targets set by the government in this law.
“Why do we need to postpone the implementation of the law by six years?” one coalition MK, who is member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee, wondered, speaking to NRG. “A three year postponement is not enough?”
Coalition members are also resentful of the language in the law that hands over to the defense minister legislation power that belongs to the Knesset, enabling him or her to unilaterally alter the law of the land.