The governing coalition’s future may be threatened by the Draft Law, after Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf (United Torah Judaism) on Wednesday said there will be no government without it. So far, there is no agreement on an outline to advance the law when the Knesset begins its winter session in October.
At least six Likud MKs said they would not vote for the outline that is being promoted primarily by Goldknopf and his UTJ colleague Meir Porush.
The outline that the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties are pushing for does not require any haredi person to enlist if they don’t want to, and it does not require yeshivas to meet a quota of enlistees. It also lowers the age of exemption from military service from 26 to 21.
This would allow haredi youth to defer their service due to yeshiva studies until they turn 21, and then those who don’t continue in yeshiva would be able to join the workforce earlier instead of waiting another five years.
To protect the law from being disqualified by the High Court of Justice, UTJ proposed a bill in late July to create a basic law that would consider Torah study akin to military or national service. As a basic law, the High Court technically would not be allowed to disqualify it or declare a new Draft Law unconstitutional.
While the bill appeared in coalition agreements, the Likud at the time quickly said it would not be advanced, following severe backlash. So, UTJ is now demanding that the new Draft Law includes an override clause to protect it from disqualification by the High Court.
What is in the proposed outline?
The outline proposed by the government agrees on lowering the age of exemption, but it adds the option to set a quota on yeshivas – similar to the previous law that expired in June. It does, however, present a change: The government will not place sanctions on yeshivas that do not meet the quota.
With the haredi parties insisting on their outline, and members of the coalition opposing it, it seems that the government will have a hard time passing either one. Meanwhile, both Goldknopf and Porush said if the law does not pass in the winter session, UTJ would leave the coalition.
Meanwhile, the IDF wants an outline that is stricter than the government’s, requiring everyone to enlist for at least a year.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi on Wednesday emphasized the importance of the IDF as the “people’s army.”
“Israel must continue to utilize the ‘people’s army’ model for its own security, a model that requires enlistment from as many parts of Israeli society as possible,” he said in a speech. “Our position is clear: Everyone enlists. Anyone who is considering not enlisting must ask themselves, What will happen if everyone does the same thing?”
Amid disagreement on the outline and rising pressure from the haredi parties, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday met with haredi representatives, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (Likud), and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionist Party), who is also a minister in the Defense Ministry.
According to reports on Thursday, the meeting had resulted in Netanyahu moving away from the government’s outline and seriously considering an outline suggested by former defense minister Benny Gantz when he and Netanyahu were trying to form a government.
According to this outline, everyone who turns 18 (including haredim and Arabs) would go through a call-up process with the IDF. The army would then decide for each person whether they would join the ranks or do national service suited to the individual’s and society’s needs. A compensation and benefits program would then be set up according to the nature of the service.
With a variety of outlines available, and strong demands from all sides, Israel will have to wait for the winter session to see if the government will succeed in settling on an outline that is acceptable to all.