IDF draft bill for haredim passes in Knesset in second attempt

Two weeks after the coalition failed to pass it, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government succeeded in passing the IDF draft bill for haredim.

HAREDI PROTESTERS decry  the draft in Jerusalem.   (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
HAREDI PROTESTERS decry the draft in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition succeeded in passing the first reading of the IDF draft bill for haredim (ultra-Orthodox) in a 51-48 vote on Monday night, two weeks after the coalition was embarrassed by failing to pass it.

The bill sets out annual targets for the number of ultra-Orthodox men to be enlisted per year beginning in 2022, with rates of enlistment increasing very slowly for the annual cohort of ultra-Orthodox men turning 18.

Should enlistment targets not be met, the bill provides for a reduction in the state budget for yeshivas, money that is distributed to recognized yeshivas for the purposes of paying students a monthly stipend.

Ra’am (United Arab List) leader Mansour Abbas voted for the bill, but his faction colleague Mazen Ghanaim wasn’t present at the vote. Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, who surprised the coalition by voting against it two weeks ago, voted in favor.

Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid immediately tweeted that he kept his promise to advance the bill.

Bennett said the bill would bring more haredim into the workforce, which he said would help the entire country.

United Torah Judaism leader Moshe Gafni shouted at Bennett after the vote that the bill was shameful. Earlier in his speech to the plenum, Gafni said he was more ashamed of the bill than any other in Israel’s history.

Likud MK Yoav Galant, a retired general who headed the IDF Southern Command, told the plenum it would do more harm than good to draft people who do not want to serve.

The bill also temporarily reduces the age of exemption to 21 in order to encourage ultra-Orthodox men to enter the workforce, and over the course of three years then raises the age to 23.

The Supreme Court had ruled that the draft bill must be passed by the end of January.