Extremist haredi men protest against jail sentences for draft dodgers..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The High Court of Justice Tuesday limited the government to an additional three months to enact legislation regulating haredi (ultra-Orhodox) enlistment in the IDF, following the coalition’s failure to approve a bill before the end of the Knesset’s summer session. The government had sought a seven-month extension.
Should the Knesset fail to pass a hareidi draft law by December 2, all yeshiva students currently receiving ongoing annual military service deferrals would be obligated to enlist. This would result in mass contempt for the rule of law since the seminarians would likely evade the draft. Nor would the army have the capacity to absorb them.
The High Court struck down the previous arrangement in September 2017 and gave the government 12 months to pass a new law, but a failure to deal with the issue promptly meant the coalition ran out of time.
A bill was approved in its first reading in July stipulating annual targets for haredi enlistment, which increase every year for a decade, and financial sanctions in the form of steadily increasing reductions to the budget for haredi yeshivas should enlistment targets not be met.
The legislation, however, faced strong opposition from Agudat Yisrael, one half of the United Torah Judaism Knesset faction, which strongly opposes the financial sanctions clause on ideological grounds, arguing that it amounts to punitive action against yeshiva students.
Yisrael Beytenu on the other hand is insistent that the financial sanctions remain since it is the only aspect of the law that gives it teeth.
Although Shas and Degel Hatorah, the second half of UTJ, are discreetly in favor of the bill due to its moderate terms and delayed implementation of the financial sanctions by three years, Agudat Yisrael, the second half of UTJ, has expressed severe opposition to the notion of financial sanctions.
Agudat Yisrael has made several threats to quit the coalition if the financial sanctions are included in the law, including from party chairman and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and MK Menachem Eliezer Mozes.
With Knesset elections looming, it remains to be seen if a compromise can be worked out over this issue within the coalition.
Yesh Atid, which backed the government enlistment bill, said there was no reason to wait to pass the law, insisting, however, that it not be changed “by even one letter” before going for its final votes.
“The High Court is right, there is no reason to allow [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to waste more time. Netanyahu doesn’t need an extension, he needs courage.”
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