Haredi draft to top Knesset agenda

Meretz MKs also push for debate on foreign workers' children.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
August 9, 2010 03:19
2 minute read.
Kadima MK Robert Tibayev

Robert Tibayev 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The Knesset is expected to emerge from its midsummer dormancy with a series of fiery plenum debates late Monday morning, with the subject of extended draft exemptions for haredi youth expected to take center stage. But although MKs, lobbyists and activists alike all prepared to put their vacations on standby for the one-day session, it was unlikely that Monday’s protests and debates would have any immediate impact.

Kadima MK Robert Tibayev led the opposition’s calls for an emergency plenum session after it was revealed last week that the government had quietly approved a widening of the draft extension for young haredi men. Supporters of expanding the haredi draft believe the government’s decision will go into effect on September 1, although final approval for the move is likely to come only after the Knesset passes the Economic Arrangements Bill during its upcoming Winter Session.

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While the Knesset’s hands may be temporarily tied for another four weeks in preventing the exemption extension from going into effect, parliamentary and extra-parliamentary activity on the subject will be raised a notch.

The “Equal Burden” organization plans a military-style stretcher march outside the Knesset an hour before the Monday debate. In addition, MK Yochanan Plessner (Kadima), who leads the subcommittee probing the efficacy of the Tal Law to expand haredi national service, has scheduled a rare televised session of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee subcommittee to discuss problems with the controversial law, including which study institutions and organizations will be affected by the law. Plessner’s team is expected to deliver its interim findings in November, weeks after the Winter Session convenes.

The draft exemption is not, however, the only topic of debate scheduled for Monday’s midday session. Meretz lawmakers also pushed for a debate on the recent government decision to approve the expulsion of an estimated one-third of the children of foreign workers in Israel.

After Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) approved the special session, the coalition weighed in as well, adding to the agenda debates on the implications of the Palestinian boycott of settlement-produced products and the “undercutting” of foreign policy by members of the opposition. The latter topic targets Kadima Council chairman Haim Ramon, who appeared in the headlines a little over a week ago after allegations that he warned top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat not to enter direct talks with the current Israeli government.

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