Netanyahu to Impose Discipline in Draft Vote

Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (2nd R) arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Yerushalayim on Sunday. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (2nd R) arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Yerushalayim on Sunday. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is seeking to ensure that the chareidi draft bill passes the Knesset by imposing coalition discipline when it comes to a vote in mid-March, The Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.

Discipline will be “fiercely enforced” on coalition members on the draft and other key legislation, lest opponents of the law jeopardize the government’s agenda, coalition chairman Yariv Levin said.

The other legislation, including electoral reforms and the referendum bill on negotiations over relinquishing territory to the Palestinians, are scheduled for voting between March 10 and 12. These are the only available days ahead of the Knesset’s extended spring recess, because the prime minister and other MKs will be going to the U.S. for the AIPAC Policy Conference.

MKs have been instructed to cancel foreign trips and remain in the Knesset until late at night during all three days so that the government will be able to muster a majority.

“If no faction suddenly backtracks from its support, then the draft bill, the referendum and the electoral reforms will all pass,” Levin said.

Some of the votes on the chareidi draft bill do appear uncertain, given objections voiced by MK’s in Jewish Home and Likud.

Jewish Home MK Mordechai Yogev bucked his party’s leadership, delaying the final approval of the bill in the Shaked committee through a series of procedural delays on Wednesday night, and he continued to speak out against the proposed law over the weekend.

“It is a populist law, which instead of drafting the chareidim into the army will draft them onto the barricades against the government,” he said.

Yogev said he believed that the majority of his party agreed with him, despite Jewish Home’s deal with Yesh Atid, and that it was an open question which way they would vote in the plenum.

There is discontent reported within the Likud, as well. MKs privately accused Netanyahu of weakening the party by burning bridges with the chareidim.

Uncertainty also prevails in the opposition. Labor, Meretz and the Arab factions say they will decide in the coming days how to vote. They are all seriously considering voting against the bill.

Outside Israel, the Jewish Home party’s friends in the U.S. have been expressing their dismay over the party’s support for forcing yeshivah students into the army.

Religious Zionists of America chairman Martin Oliner said he and other leaders of his community were disappointed.

“The fundamentals of religious Zionism are supporting Torah and work, and Torah comes first,” Oliner said. “A culture cannot be changed by force. It is wrong to put arbitrary quotas that are capricious on yeshivah students.

“If you can put quotas on learning Torah, tomorrow they’ll do it on hesder students, and later on people living over the Green Line.”

Rabbinical Council of America president Rabbi Leonard Matanky said “It is difficult for me to accept that anyone would be subject to criminal punishment for learning Torah,” Matanky said. “I understand the sociological and economic challenges that went into the decision, but Torah study is paramount to our existence.”

“There are people who should be studying Torah, and there are people who should be serving and earning a living. There need to be opportunities for helping those who were studying and now want to enter the workforce.”

National Council of Young Israel president Farley Weiss said that Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett had told him that his party would not support criminal sanctions, and so he was surprised that in the end they voted for it.

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