Agudah: We'll bring down government ‘the moment’ enlistment law passes

Both Shas and Degel want to vote against the bill since they cannot be seen publicly to endorse a measure that would increase the number of haredi men in the army.

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December 23, 2018 22:39
4 minute read.
Agudah: We'll bring down government ‘the moment’ enlistment law passes

A hanging doll dressed up as a Haredi soldier was removed by the police in Jerusalem on Friday, March 2, 2018 (Police spokesperson). (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

 
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Agudat Yisrael, the hassidic half of the haredi United Torah Judaism Knesset faction, is threatening to bring down the government if the current legislation on increasing haredi enlistment to the IDF is passed in its current form.

A source in Agudah told The Jerusalem Post that the party’s three MKs would quit the coalition the moment the bill is passed in its final Knesset reading, while Likud MK Miki Zohar said that the threat was serious and could well lead to the fall of the coalition.
Agudah MK Yisrael Eichler told the haredi Kol Hai radio station that there is no solution at the moment to the issue from the perspective of Agudah, and that the only alternative is to postpone passage of the legislation until after the next elections.

At the same time, MKs from Degel Hatorah, the non-hassidic half of UTJ, have threatened to boycott Tuesday’s scheduled meeting of the special Knesset committee tasked with preparing the law for its final readings in supposed protest to the bill.

In reality however, they do not find the terms of the legislation particularly objectionable and are willing to let it pass without toppling the government.

Both Shas and Degel want to vote against the bill since they cannot be seen publicly to endorse a measure that would increase the number of haredi men in the army, and rely on Yisrael Beytenu, which advanced the bill, and Yesh Atid which initially said it would support it, to pass it in the Knesset.

Elements in Agudah on the other hand, including the grand rabbis of Gur, Viznitz and Slonim, are thought to be genuinely opposed to the bill, particularly the clause that would see the law automatically annulled if enlistment targets are not met for three years in a row.
The rabbis view this clause as totally unacceptable and tantamount to agreeing to the principal of criminal sanctions against yeshiva students, since should the law be annulled all yeshiva students would be required to enlist in the IDF, with failure to do so punishable by imprisonment.

The draft law does provide for a 12-month period after the law lapses to draft new legislation, but the grand rabbis say the principle remains the same and worry that the High Court of Justice will strike down any new law as it has done twice in the past.

The targets set out in the bill for increasing numbers of haredi men to be drafted over the next decade are also thought to be of concern to the hassidic grand rabbis.

Zohar told the Post that Shas and Degel can both “live with the law,” and said that those two parties had “a realistic” view of the situation, since a law must be passed at some stage to prevent all haredi men of military age from being drafted.

“We need to be creative and not just put off the end. It has to be passed at some point,” he said.

Zohar said however that it was not at all certain if it would be possible to keep Agudah in the coalition in light of their opposition to critical clauses in the bill.

Degel MK Uri Maklev struck out against the coalition, and accused coalition chairman MK David Amsalem and the Likud as seeing the law as a convenient excuse to disperse the Knesset and go to elections over in an interview with Channel 2.

The leading rabbi of the non-hassidic “Lithuanian” haredi community, Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, described the bill earlier this year as “the lesser of two evils” and said that the MKs of Degel Hatorah, the non-hassidic half of the UTJ Knesset faction, should not go to war over the legislation.

Degel is now apparently changing its public stance since it is embarrassing for the party to be outflanked by Agudah as less stringent about such a sensitive issue in the haredi world.

Amsalem announced on Thursday that he intended to pass the bill quickly, given the rapidly approaching deadline issued by the High Court of Justice this month for January 15, and rely on opposition support from Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu rather than make changes demanded by Agudah.

UTJ MKs expressed outrage at Amsalem, who they said did not inform them he was convening the committee and backtracked from previous agreements about changes that would be made in the bill.

Netanyahu’s coalition currently has a razor-thin 61-59 MK majority. If any party leaves by January 15, elections would likely be initiated that would take place between April and June.

In an interview with Israel Radio on Sunday morning, Amsalem dared Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid to go back on his promise to support the bill.

“If Lapid doesn’t support the bill, it shows Lapid doesn’t care if the haredim don’t serve,” Amsalem said of Yesh Atid’s cooling enthusiasm to help the government out.

Yesh Atid said in response that their only demand is that the bill not be changed and that Netanyahu would not compensate the haredim through back-door deals.

“We understand from Amsalem’s panicking that it would be very hard for Netanyahu [to not do that], because surrendering [to the haredim] is his faith,” a Yesh Atid spokesman said.

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