Haredi men protest outside the draft office in Jerusalem on November 28..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Council of Torah Sages of Agudat Yisrael, one half of the United Torah Judaism Party, has told its MKs that if the current version of the new bill for haredi enlistment is passed into law, the party should quit the coalition.
The threat, although dramatic, seems to leave open the possibility of amending the bill, with UTJ sources saying an extension from the High Court of Justice until its September deadline may be requested.
The council met on Thursday afternoon in Jerusalem following the publication earlier this week of recommendations made by a special subcommittee in the Defense Committee for a draft bill to increase haredi enlistment in the IDF.
The draft includes proposed annual enlistment targets which increase every year for ten years, and steadily increasing reductions to the budget for haredi yeshivas should enlistment targets not be met.
The notion of any form of sanctions for yeshivas or students for failing to meet enlistment targets is anathema to the haredi rabbinic and political leadership. Despite the fact that the suggested sanctions are relatively moderate, it will be very hard for the senior rabbinic leadership to let the bill pass.
One UTJ source said that the council’s rabbis took a firm stance against the bill
in its current formulation, saying “they don’t support it and won’t let it pass,” adding that they instructed Aguda MKs Yaakov Litzman, Meir Porush and Yisrael Eichler to quit the coalition if the law is passed over their heads.
Another UTJ source said, however, that it was unlikely that the bill would be advanced without the agreement of the haredi parties, and that a deferral would be requested from the High Court so that negotiations could be conducted to amend the draft bill.
Eichler told haredi radio station Kol Barama after the council’s meeting that it was still unclear what specific clauses the rabbis opposed, but insisted that the bill could not even be allowed to go for its first Knesset reading in its current form, even with guarantees to change it in committee before its final votes.