Historic Knesset Debate Opens On Chareidi Draft Law

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Knesset launched into an all-night session on Monday for what loomed as an historic and contentious debate over the chareidi draft law.

Dozens of MKs had signed up to speak for and against it in the plenum, a process expected to take several hours, which meant a vote on the first reading of the bill would not take place until the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Then the text will be referred to committee, and the plenum will resume discussion after the summer recess. Final voting is not expected for several months.

In its current form, obligatory service in the army or civilian work will not commence until
2017. Until that time, an interim period of voluntary service will be in effect.

In 2017, all yeshivah students will be given the option of deferring service for three years, at which time all will have to report for service, regardless. Those who do not comply will be liable to criminal prosecution and financial sanctions, according to the proposed law.

Based on an opinion by Attorney General Yehudah Weinstein, from 2020 all chareidim will be subject to the draft from age 18 with no option for deferral.

Anyone who is between 18 and 22 when the law is enacted may defer service until age 24, after which he is eligible for a full exemption and allowed to join the work force.

Although the law is expected to pass the preliminary reading, it won’t go through without a fight. Chareidi MKs from United Torah Judaism and Shas have been preparing for Monday night’s debate for some time.

As a Shas spokesman said, “We’re preparing. We don’t need to tell everyone how, but rest assured, we’ll do our job as parliamentarians.”

Though boycotted from the government by the Netanyahu-Lapid-Bennett alliance, the chareidi representatives include a number of former ministers, deputy ministers and committee chairmen with many years of experience and formidable skills in parliamentary maneuver, which are expected to be on display.

As Yaakov Perry (Yesh Atid) went to the podium to present the bill, most chareidi MK’s walked out, then gathered at the entrance saying selichos, and a shofar could be heard.

The debate on the draft was preceded by a series of eight no-confidence motions, sponsored by all of the opposition parties. The motions focused on a range of issues, from the failure to right the economy and favoritism to the rich, to Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s relentless incitement against the chareidim.

As expected, the government majority held firm to defeat all the no-confidence motions.

Full coverage of the Knesset debate on the draft law will, be”H, appear in Wednesday’s edition of Hamodia.