Draft Law Passes Ministerial Committee; Yisrael Beytenu Threatens to Bolt Coalition

YERUSHALAYIM -
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a chareidi-backed draft bill Monday, meant to stabilize the coalition. Yisrael Beytenu’s representative on the committee, Immigration Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, voted against the bill, keeping the threat of an election intact.

The Committee, which normally meets every Sunday, held a special session Monday to approve the law. The session was led by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home).

Yisrael Beytenu submitted an appeal against the bill, which means that the prime minister will have to call the cabinet for a discussion and vote on the matter, or there will be no coalition discipline for the vote in the Knesset. Without coalition discipline, the bill is unlikely to pass the vote in the Knesset.

The vote came as part of a compromise reached by United Torah Judaism and Shas with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to avoid calling an election, after the parties refused to support the 2019 state budget without progress on draft bill. Later Monday, the budget bill will be brought before the Knesset and is to pass with the support of chareidi coalition partners.

The sides agreed that a proposal by Shas MK Rabbi Yoav Ben-Tzur would pass the ministerial committee and a preliminary Knesset reading before the Pesach break.

The bill sets annual targets for chareidi enlistment. Should the targets not be met, the law would be voided and the Knesset would have a year to pass a new law. There will not be any legal sanctions to yeshivah students, even if the law falls.

The Yisrael Beytenu party signaled opposition to the compromise deal reached late Sunday, although it was unclear if the position put the prospect of early elections back on the table.

Yisrael Beytenu has rejected the new draft law, arguing that legislation regarding conscription must be drawn up in coordination with the security establishment. Yisrael Beytenu has long supported reforming the draft, and restricting deferments for yeshivah students.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who has been the bill’s most vocal opponent, has yet to officially respond to the deal.

On Wednesday, the draft law will be brought before the full Knesset for a first reading. As part of the agreement, the law will be brought up in the Knesset plenum for the final two votes in the summer.

“If the law is passed in its current form – we’re out,” Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer told Channel 10 on Monday. Forer did, however, indicate his party was not dropping out of the government immediately, but would wait until final passage of the bill.

“We won’t let our hands be tied when it comes to security matters. We’ll leave the coalition if the bill is passed in the second and third readings.”

Should Yisrael Beytenu drop out of the government, Netanyahu would be left with a bare majority of 61 seats.