New Coalition Row Over Chareidi Draft Bill

YERUSHALAYIM -

A new row has developed in Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government coalition over the implementation of quotas on chareidi military enlistment, Haaretz said on Wednesday.

Sources in Yesh Atid accused Netanyahu and Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked of conspiring to weaken the draft bill by inserting a clause that would authorize the cabinet to determine whether the annual quota of chareidi draftees has been met. This would give the cabinet discretion to decide that the yeshivos are in compliance with the law even if the number of draftees falls short of official quotas.

“Shaked believes that in a situation in which 5,180 chareidim are inducted instead of 5,200, the cabinet must be allowed to recognize that the chareidi public had met its draft quota,” members of the chairwoman’s inner circle said.

A vote was taken on Wednesday on a Yesh Atid proposal to limit the cabinet to merely “announcing” whether the quota had been met rather than deciding on it. The committee failed to pass it, in a 4-4 tie vote.

In another tie vote, a Yesh Atid attempt to impose criminal sanctions in the event that a quota of 5,200 chareidi draftees was not met also failed passage. Such a provision was entirely new, never mentioned either in the earlier Peri committee recommendations, nor in the preliminary reading of the bill in the plenum.

The presence during the voting of two chareidi MKs, Rabbi Meir Porush (UTJ) and Ariel Attias (Shas), was instrumental in defeating the proposals. They, along with Shaked and Gila Gamliel (Likud) provided the four votes that blocked the Yesh Atid moves. The chareidi MKs had previously declared they would no longer participate in committee proceedings after it became evident that, despite prior indications, it was bent on endorsing criminal sanctions on yeshivah students who refuse army service. However, they returned to the committee temporarily to prevent MK Ofer Shelach of Yesh Atid from doing “as he pleased,” said Rabbi Porush.

Meanwhile, the committee seems to have reached consensus on the definition of who is chareidi for the purpose of the draft quotas, part of which is that the draft candidate be a student at a chareidi institution for at least two years between the ages of 14 and 18.

Earlier in the week, committee members were surprised to discover that the key term “chareidi” had been left undefined in the text of the bill and the matter was sent back to legal experts for urgent handling.