The budget will not pass if the 2017 start date for automatic criminal penalties over haredi conscription is not changed first, United Torah Judaism faction chairman Menahem Eliezer Moses said Monday.
The coalition agreement states that the implementation date for criminal penalties for ultra-Orthodox men who do not enlist in the military or civilian service must be extended in three readings in the Knesset before the budget is passed on November 19.
“Agreements have to be respected,” Moses said.
Moses’s comments came after the Knesset House Committee established the schedule for votes next week. Though the schedule included a first reading on changes to the conscription law before the budget passes, it did not include a date for the final votes on the matter.
Coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) said he plans to “convince those who need convincing to hold a serious discussion [about amendments to the conscription law] in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee,” of which Hanegbi is chairman.
“We are not trying to kill time, we are trying to hold a serious discussion,” Hanegbi added.
However, Moses still said the amendments “have to come [to a final vote] before the budget....
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There’s an order to things.... If we signed an agreement, it has to be respected, and that is what we are demanding.
“Without the conscription law, the budget will not pass,” he added.
Still, he said that serious discussion of changing the order of votes will not take place until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returns from the US later this week, because, “The prime minister is busy abroad with very important things.”
According to a draft of an amendment to the 2014 conscription law published on Friday by the Defense Ministry, the deadline for mandatory enlistment shall be postponed from 2017 until 2020.
Between 2020 and 2023, an intermediary stage will obligate full time haredi (ultra-Orthodox) yeshivas to fulfill enlistment targets.
But, unlike the current law which mandates automatic penalties, the defense minister will have the discretion to decide whether criminal penalties will be applied if these targets aren’t met.
The haredi enlistment targets set out in last year’s law will not be changed.
On Monday, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman called for “everyone to be enlisted in the IDF or civilian service at age 18, without tricks or shticks.”
According to Liberman, the Defense Ministry is behaving “unreasonably” and this is “miserable timing for the government to be canceling equality in the burden of service...
while we deal with countless challenges throughout the land – dealing with threats from Gaza while rockets are launched almost every week at Israel. And we see what is happening in the north, in Sinai with the Russian plane, the complex situation in Syria and Lebanon.
“This harms the people on whom the burden falls, including those on active duty ad reservists, and also those who work and pay taxes,” he added.
Liberman also accused the Likud of “totally giving in to the haredim” and “twisting the history of Zionism and the meaning of nationalism by trying to replace Zionism with cleric-ism.”
The Yisrael Beytenu leader posited that only his party is acting in the spirit of Zionism, as a secular, right-wing party.
Moses responded to the criticism of the planned amendments from Liberman and from Yesh Atid, calling it “incitement.”
Moses explained: “We are not making major changes. We just want there to be two stages and an extension until 2020, and to cancel the idea of giving everyone [who does not enlist] a criminal record.”
“That will achieve the opposite of what the law wants, because then people with criminal records will have trouble finding jobs and joining society,” he said.
Also on Monday, Yesh Atid sent activists to demonstrate outside the home of MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), who was already at the Knesset at the time, to call on him to vote against the changes to the enlistment law.
Kisch, a former IAF pilot, was a leader of the protest movement in favor of having equal conscription laws for haredim before becoming an MK.
“We are not canceling the enlistment law, period. [Yesh Atid chairman] Yair Lapid’s tactic of divisiveness failed, and we are working on finding better alternatives,” he stated.
The Likud MK, who is also chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee on IDF Manpower, said that the enlistment numbers for 2015 do not meet the goals set when Lapid was in the government, and if the law was not changed, massive numbers of haredim would have criminal records in 2017.
“The goal here is to make sure more haredim will enter the IDF or civilian service, not to poke haredim in the eye,” Kisch stated. “We are changing the law to reflect a new approach, which will lead to more people enlisting.”
The Knesset House Committee also decided on Monday that a bill by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) to anchor the legal status of the Land Registration and Settlement of Rights Department as part of the World Zionist Organization would go to a first reading before the budget, in keeping with the coalition agreement with Bayit Yehudi. The department helps fund agricultural settlements like kibbutzim and moshavim regardless of their location in relation to the Green Line.
The Zionist Union, especially MK Stav Shaffir, has come out against the Settlement Department in recent years, claiming a lack of transparency that has allowed disproportionate funding for West Bank settlements.
“Once again we see that all that interests [Education Minister] Naftali Bennett and the rest of the Bayit Yehudi’s members is the art of extortion,” a Zionist Union spokesman said.
“The Bayit Yehudi’s threats to the prime minister and coalition chairman that they won’t support the budget if they don’t get a pound of flesh from the Settlement Department, makes their sin of legalizing a thoroughly corrupt institution even worse.”
Smotrich responded that he is “proud to support the periphery and the pioneering settlements in the Negev and the Galilee, as well as in Judea and Samaria.
“It is unfortunate that the Zionist Union, which once was a party of values, lost its way and all that is left is for it to fight against Zionism and the Settlement Department, which most local authority heads in the Negev and near the Gaza border, Golan Heights and Jezreel Valley support,” he added.
The coalition and opposition came to an agreement that budget votes next week will only last until 8 p.m. on Monday- Wednesday, as opposed to the all-night voting sessions that usually accompany budgets.
A senior opposition source said that the parties had come to the conclusion that filibusters are “pointless.”Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.
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