The Knesset quashed a bill Wednesday submitted by MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) that attempted to reduce the number of young women who avoid mandatory IDF service by falsely claiming to be Orthodox. Hasson's legislation, submitted as a private member's bill without the support of the coalition, was soundly defeated by a vote of 63-29 after Labor and Israel Beiteinu faction members maintained coalition discipline.
"[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu chose to bow to coalition considerations and to 'kasher' draft evasion," complained Kadima spokesman Shmulik Dahan. "It was an embarrassing surrender in the face of the draft-evaders, and spat in the face of the majority of the Israeli public that shoulders the burden. This is tantamount to giving an open check for mass draft evasion, sponsored by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Labor members and Israel Beiteinu members. Netanyahu chose to serve his haredi partners and to ensure his political survival at the expense of national interest."
Hasson's bill would have demanded that young women requesting a draft exemption on religious grounds would have to include a statement that they studied at least two of the past three years at an educational institution with a religious leaning, as well as to provide documentation of those studies. In the event of a woman who could not provide necessary documentation, the IDF would be allowed to exercise "consideration" in exceptional cases.
"In another five years, up to 60 percent of each year's draft class will be included in exemptions," warned Hasson.
The government, which was represented in the Knesset floor debate by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i (Labor), argued that the private bill was unnecessary in light of a bill currently being drafted within the coalition to combat the same phenomenon. Vilna'i asked that the Knesset simply delay a vote on the bill until next week, when, he said, the government would present its bill.
At the beginning of the month, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided to submit a bill to the Knesset to combat the same phenomenon, and formulated a compromise agreement by which a representative from the chief rabbinate and a representative from the IDF would work together to hold appeals hearings for women trying to secure a draft exemption. The committee reviewed Hasson's bill, and added points of opposition as well as additions to the Kadima MK's proposal, including a clause that a woman caught lying could only be drafted up to two years after her original enlistment date.
At the time - and again on the plenum floor Wednesday - Hasson criticized the coalition's bill, accusing the government of giving in to haredi pressure, and of creating a bill that dealt with enforcement against the phenomenon, rather than prevention of it.