Haredi protest IDF, Jerusalem, February 6, 2014.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Knesset members in the committee charged with hammering out legislation that would mandate the military enlistment of ultra-Orthodox youngsters reached an agreement late Tuesday night that seemingly paves the way for the legislation to be enacted.
According to Channel 2, the Shaked Committee, which was tasked with finding a formula that would ensure mandatory military service for haredim while also taking into account the need to maintain a religious lifestyle that would allow for Torah study, came to an agreement on the two main issues thought to be holding up a deal: criminal sanctions for draft-dodgers, and the age of conscription.
According to Channel 2, the Shaked Committee has approved legal measures against those who evade military service, though the law won't go into effect until 2018.
The new legislation will also allow haredim to serve until the age of 26, meaning that they can defer army service until a relatively later age.
Political sources claimed that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intervened on Tuesday in the committee on haredi enlistment
to prevent a key vote, owing to concerns that a deal existed between Bayit Yehudi and the haredi parties that could have endangered the coalition.
It had been widely assumed the committee would finally vote on whether or not to impose a legal obligation for military service on haredi men, an issue which has generated significant conflict within the coalition.
Netanyahu’s alleged intervention scuppered the chance for a vote on the issue, however, and further coalition talks will take place before the clause in the legislation will be voted on.
Yesh Atid party chairman and Finance Minister Yair Lapid has made plain that he will leave the coalition if the new law does not impose legally mandated military service on haredi men.
At the same time, the status of the hesder yeshiva program for national-religious men, which is also included in the draft bill, is vulnerable due to widespread political opposition to the 16-month military service currently required of such men, as opposed to the 36 months for everyone else.
According to speculation by political sources, Netanyahu believed that Bayit Yehudi had agreed to oppose a legal obligation for military service in return for the two haredi representatives on the committee voting in favor of keeping the service in the hesder program at just 17 months.
Shortly before the committee was scheduled to vote on the hesder issue, the Likud’s representative on the panel, MK Tzachi Hanegbi, left the room. Without him Bayit Yehudi could not have prevented hesder service from being significantly lengthened.
Committee chairwoman and Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked then postponed a vote on the issue.
Political sources said Hanegbi’s departure from the committee room sent an implied message from the prime minister that no votes on the central issues of the bill could be held before further discussion within the coalition.