The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a haredi enlistment bill Monday, meant to stabilize the coalition, but Yisrael Beytenu voted against it, keeping the threat of an election intact.
The vote came as part of a compromise reached by haredi parties United Torah Judaism and Shas with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to avoid dissolving the Knesset this week and calling an election, after the parties refused to support the 2019 state budget without progress on haredi non-conscription.
The sides agreed that a proposal by Shas MK Yoav Ben-Tsur would pass the ministerial committee and a preliminary Knesset reading, but will not make any further progress without approval from Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, who objects to the current draft of the bill, and the Defense Ministry.
The Attorney-General would not comment on the record, but sources close to Mandelblit confirmed that the suggested bill does not meet the necessary legal standards, but that he would be willing to reconsider his position if it is properly amended.
However, Yisrael Beytenu has yet to agree to any terms, and its representative on the committee, Immigration Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, voted against the bill.
Yisrael Beytenu then submitted an appeal against the bill, which means that Netanyahu 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.
Ben-Tsur’s bill sets binding annual targets for haredi enlistment, which would be reviewed every one or two years. Should the targets not be met, the law would be voided and young haredi men would theoretically be obliged to enlist in the IDF, although the Knesset would have a year to pass a new exemptions law.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman
has conditioned his Yisrael Beytenu party’s support on his ministry’s input in the bill.
The coalition has 61 seats without Yisrael Beytenu, and could approve the bill in a preliminary vote without Liberman’s faction.
However, Liberman has also said that the party will leave the coalition if the bill goes to a second and third (final) reading in a version that is not approved by the Defense Ministry committee he formed earlier this year.
And Netanyahu told Likud ministers on Sunday that he does not want a narrow, 61-seat coalition - meaning the current one, minus Yisrael Beytenu - because then each individual MK can hold it hostage.
For example, Likud MK Yehudah Glick plans to vote against the budget because it does not raise taxes on tobacco and rolling papers.
Therefore, while the haredim and Yisrael Beytenu don’t have to agree this week, which means an election is less likely to be imminent, the problem has only been postponed, not solved.Yonah Jeremy Bob and Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.