Photo Credit: Yaacov Cohen / Flash 90
Haredi leader Aryeh Deri (Shas) with Avigdor Liberman (Israel Beytenu)

The Haredi parties on Tuesday proposed a compromise to resolve the dispute regarding the draft law, which threatens the efforts to cobble together the next coalition government, Israel Hayom, which is close to the Likud party, reported on Wednesday.

The Haredim and Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman are stuck in a dispute over the new IDF draft law as it was drafted by the defense establishment, with Liberman on the record as saying that he would not agree to any change, even the smallest one, in the language.

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The proposal the Haredim are offering does not require changing any of the draft law language, instead it seeks to add to the law an additional statement that any yeshiva student wishing to study Torah can continue to do so. According to the Haredim, the defense establishment can also add this clause to its draft.

In addition, the Haredim want to pass a constitutional-level Basic Law: The Value of Torah Study.

To date, all the disqualifications by the High Court of Justice of the various draft laws stemmed from the fact that they conflicted with the constitutional value of “burden equality,” compelling all citizens to serve in the army. However, by pushing up the value of Torah learning to an equal constitutional status, the Haredim expect to make it impossible for the court to prefer one over the other.

Of course, the Haredim also demand that the “overcoming clause”—allowing the Knesset to reconsider laws which had been disqualified by the court—be passed by the Knesset before the amended draft law is enacted, making sure the court would be helpless to quash it this time.

An anonymous Haredi politician told Israel Hayom a tad bitterly: “We, together with the religious Zionists, are worth 20 seats, while Liberman is worth only five, and yet we are the ones who are prepared to take a step toward compromise. With 20 seats we could easily demand drafting a different law altogether be submitted by the defense establishment, something we would agree on – and yet we say that we are willing to compromise on the defense ministry’s draft, even without any changes, conditioned on one declarative addition that would ensure that those learning Torah can continue learning Torah.”

And so begins the next phase in the saga of the dispute over the Haredi draft legislation which began in the 1970s but has its roots in the days just before the establishment of the state, in 1948. On March 9, 1948, then Head of the Haganah national command, Yisrael Galili, declared that in the future Israeli army, the yeshivas would submit lists of students who are exempt from military service, who would only receive training in self-defense and continue learning. The heads of the Haredi yeshivas, for their part, gave their word to include only actual learners in those lists.

Of course, the total number of these students, according to Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, was 400.

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