Ra'am to provide coalition votes to pass IDF enlistment bill for haredim

Coalition set to lose majority when MK Pinto gives birth.

MK Mansour Abbas (Ra'am), October 4, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
MK Mansour Abbas (Ra'am), October 4, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz received a commitment from Ra’am (United Arab List) leader Mansour Abbas on Monday to provide the coalition the votes it needs to pass the IDF enlistment bill for haredi Orthodox, political sources confirmed on Tuesday.

Gantz had been delaying bringing the bill for a vote because he lacked a majority without Ra’am. But Abbas told Gantz that if it is not possible to draft a majority without his MKs, they will vote in favor and let it pass.

“They are part of the coalition, and they must contribute their support for some of our requests,” Gantz told reporters at Blue and White’s faction meeting. “Their obligations must be no less on this issue, and we spoke about that.”

The government’s bill to increase haredi enlistment to the IDF was submitted last month to the Knesset. It has drastically lowered minimum enlistment rates than a previous version of the bill. It would temporarily reduce the age of exemption to 21 in order to encourage haredi men to enter the workforce, and then over the course of three years raise the age of exemption up to 23.

The government is in a hurry to pass problematic legislation because it is about to lose an active coalition MK when Shirley Pinto gives birth to her second child. A spokeswoman for Pinto said she was due on Monday.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York protest IDF enlistment law 3 (credit: Reuters)Ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York protest IDF enlistment law 3 (credit: Reuters)

The spokeswoman said Pinto took off only a few days from work when her son was born. Without Pinto, the coalition’s majority would fall to 60-59.

One reason Ra’am is ready to vote for the enlistment bill is that it needs Blue and White’s support for its own controversial legislation, which would enable tens of thousands of illegally built homes to be hooked up to the national electricity grid. The bill passed its first reading in the Knesset plenum on Monday night in a 61-48 vote, with the support of opposition MKs from the Joint List.

The bill’s sponsor, Ra’am MK Waleed Taha, told the Knesset plenum it would save lives and finally do justice for tens of thousands who were not given permits to build and were not permitted to be hooked up to the grid.”

But Likud MK David Amsalem called the bill “the most dangerous step since the state was founded.”

The Knesset plenum approved the Knesset House Committee’s recommendation regarding the appointment of a public committee to determine salaries and payments to Knesset members, and the establishment of a special committee to discuss the bill regulating the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

The plenum also unanimously passed into law a bill that sets minimum penalties for offenses of possession and trafficking in illegal weapons. The law stipulates a temporary provision in which, except in special cases, a minimum penalty of a quarter of the maximum penalty will be imposed on those convicted of offenses of possession, carrying and trafficking in arms.

Jeremy Sharon and Ben Zion Gad contributed to this report.