Agudat Yisrael political party ‘deeply opposed’ to haredi draft bill

The hasidic party’s grand rabbis could reject the draft bill when they meet Sunday night in the Council of Torah Sages.

Haredi rioters affiliated with extremist communities block traffic at a Jerusalem junction (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Haredi rioters affiliated with extremist communities block traffic at a Jerusalem junction
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Agudat Yisrael is deeply opposed to a clause in the current version of the haredi enlistment bill, which could lead its Council of Torah Sages to reject the legislation when it meets Sunday night, a decision that could make elections more likely.
According to sources in Agudah, the grand rabbis of the various hassidic communities that make up the party vehemently object to the clause in the current draft bill that would see the law automatically annulled if enlistment targets are not met for three years in a row.
The rabbis view this clause as totally unacceptable and tantamount to agreeing to the principal of criminal sanctions against yeshiva students, since should the law be annulled all yeshiva students would be required to enlist in the IDF, with failure to do so punishable by imprisonment.
The draft law does provide for a 12-month period after the law lapses to draft new legislation, but the Agudah grand rabbis say the principle remains the same and worry that the High Court of Justice will strike down any new law once again.
Although Shas and Degel Hatorah have agreed to the bill in principle, it appears highly doubtful that Agudah’s grand rabbis will agree to accept it at their scheduled meeting Sunday night.
Should Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who has led the effort to draft the new law, refuse to make concessions on this clause, it would be hard to see Agudah backing down, meaning the coalition would become unworkable. 
The government would still have enough votes to pass the bill without Agudah’s three MKs, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during the meeting of coalition heads on Sunday that he was not prepared to pass a bill if one coalition party opposes it.
Coalition chairman MK David Amsallem of Likud called on the haredi MKs on Sunday to bring him a proposal to him that is “agreed upon by all,” saying that “the question of elections depends upon this,” in an interview with haredi radio station Kol Hai.
“If there is no agreement from all the haredim on this law there is no reason to approve it,” he said.
According to one of the sources in Agudah and another well placed source, the majority of the grand rabbis would be prepared to swallow the enlistment targets set out in the bill and even the financial sanctions against the general yeshiva budget for failing to meet those targets, viewing them as relatively soft and which could be offset by diverting money to yeshiva students through other channels.
It is possible that Agudah’s Council of Torah Sages could demand further concessions on the draft bill instead of rejecting it outright, but whether or not Liberman will agree to such demands is questionable.
In August, the High Court gave the government a four month extension to pass new haredi enlistment legislation, a deadline which ends on December 2. In the event that the Knesset is dissolved, it seems likely that the court would have to grant a further extension since the alternative would be the drafting en masse of thousands of haredi youths which the IDF cannot absorb and which the haredi leadership would stridently resist.