Chareidi Draft Bill Fails in First Reading

United Torah Judaism (UTJ) MK Uri Maklev addressing the Kesset. (Photos by Knesset spokesman)

The coalition failed to pass a new chareidi draft bill in a preliminary reading in the Knesset on Monday evening.

With Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, a coalition member, casting a vote against, it fell short of the necessary majority, 54-54.

The bill proposes to recruit chareidim into the IDF, lowering the age of exemption to 21 for those who prefer to remain in yeshiva. The lowering of the age will be in effect for two years.

After that time, the exemption age would rise to 22, and a year later, to 23. Charedim would be able to complete their service at the age of 21 on condition they join the workforce through a track that provides professional training.

The bill set forth annual recruitment targets, requiring chareidi enlistment numbers to gradually increase.

The chareidi parties have consistently fought such proposals, and did so again on Monday.

United Torah Judaism (UTJ) MK Uri Maklev said that the law “undermines the foundation of our existence. I believe wholeheartedly that the duty to study the Torah and its existence is what gives the people of Israel the right to exist, it is our soul of life, it is the main and exclusive pillar of support, it is the cornerstone and foundation for our moral and practical existence,” he said.

UTJ MK Rabbi Meir Porush.

“The army is not a value, but a security need, the Torah is a value and when there is Torah study the need for an army is small.”

UTJ MK Rabbi Meir Porush denounced it, declaring that with “a government of Jews that enacts such a law, it is preferable that such a state not even exist.”

“What annoys us is the the people of Ra’am are receiving budgets, while we are not and they are telling us to go to the army. Does that sound rational?” added Rabbi Porush.

Shas MK Rabbi Arye Deri.

Shas leader Rabbi Arye Deri called the Draft Law a “political law, whose entire purpose is to harm Torah learners and discriminate against Torah learners.”

“I turn to the members of Ra’am, you have no moral right to decide concerning Jews and chareidim who will serve in the army and who will not! It’s a red line! If you raise a hand in favor of the draft law, we will not give up any possible action in the High Court of Justice to recruit Arabs to the army.”

Afterwards, MK Zoabi explained that she voted against the bill because, she said, “last week the coalition of which I am a member crossed two red lines: the planting of trees in a Bedouin area of the Negev, which she called a “brutal” policy; and passage of the Citizenship Law, which bars Palestinians from bringing their spouses into Israel, which she called “racist and fascistic,” according to Ynet.

Zoabi described her vote as a protest against the coalition’s mistreatment of the Arab citizenry.

A senior member of the coalition criticized Zoabi for “acting irresponsibly,” noting that she had not informed her colleagues beforehand of her intention to vote with the opposition.

Prior to the vote, the Likud faction chairman MK Yariv Levin, reportedly challenged Zoabi, asking if she really believed in equality? “Is that what you want, to enlist everybody? That’s really what you want? And are you also for enlisting the Arabs as well?”

Although a setback for the coalition, it was expected that the bill will reappear in the coming weeks, with revisions.

According to The Times of Israel, “the coalition was aware that it probably lacked a majority, but because of a High Court demand that the government advance efforts” to update the enlistment law, it brought it to a vote on Monday, merely to placate the judges. A more serious attempt is planned for a later date.

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