Haredi men protest outside the draft office in Jerusalem on November 28..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The controversial haredi (ultra-Orthodox) IDF draft bill that has threatened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition multiple times resurfaced as a potential election-causing problem on Sunday.
Coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud) announced Thursday that he intended to pass the bill, which was drafted by the Defense Ministry according to its needs. He said that rather than make changes demanded by the haredi Agudat Yisrael party, he would instead pass it with two parties from the opposition, Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu, who have said they would vote for it if no changes are made.
Amsalem is set to convene a committee he chairs to advance the bill on Tuesday. He reportedly gave Agudat Yisrael an ultimatum to agree to pass the bill by then, in a move that could lead to the departure from the coalition of the three-MK Agudat Yisrael, or perhaps the entire United Torah Judaism faction of six MKs.
Sources in UTJ 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. They threatened to boycott Tuesday's meeting.
Amsalem said in Sunday's Likud ministerial meeting that he was undaunted by the haredi threats, and would convene the committee even if they boycott it.
Netanyahu’s coalition currently has a razor-thin 61-59 MK majority. If any party leaves by the January 15 deadline of the Supreme Court to pass the bill, elections would likely be initiated that would take place between April and June.
In an interview with Army Radio on Sunday morning, Amsalem dared Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid to go back on his promise to support the bill.
“If Lapid doesnt support the bill, it shows Lapid doesn't care if the haredim don't serve,” Amsalem said.
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.
"It's not that we want the elections.We are supposed to pass the law on January 15. We hope that [Avigdor] Liberman and Lapid will vote for the bill," Culture Minister Miri Regev said about the bill.
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