Litzman threatens to leave coalition if haredi draft bill passes

Bill expected to pass late on Monday night, majority of haredi MKs to vote against; Yesh Atid to support govt and vote in favor.

An Israeli soldier of the Ultra-Orthodox brigade takes part in a swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Israeli soldier of the Ultra-Orthodox brigade takes part in a swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) threatened today to leave the coalition if the haredi draft bill passes three readings and is voted into law.
"We cannot agree to any law that will limit the study of Torah in any way," Litzman said in the plenum on Monday.
Adding: "United Torah Judaism will vote against the new draft law," he confirmed: "Don't think for a second that we will change our position because Lapid is in favor of it."
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the haredi enlistment bill for its first reading in Knesset later today, followed shortly thereafter by a bitter exchange between Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Yesh Atid MKs Elazar Stern and Karin Elharar.
The bill stipulates annual enlistment targets which increase every year for ten years, and financial sanctions in the form of steadily increasing reductions to the budget for haredi yeshivas should enlistment targets not be met.
Yesh Atid and its chairman MK Yair Lapid have claimed that the bill includes the same principles as the law it passed in 2014 during the last government, and say they therefore support the bill, but Shaked fiercely attacked this claim.
During a hearing in the Knesset’s Constitution Law and Justice Committee, Shaked pointed out that Yesh Atid had stubbornly refused to utilize economic instead of criminal sanctions in the law it passed, despite the urging of several experts on the issue.
“I invested many hours in the last Knesset to convince Lapid and [MK Ofer] Shelah to support economic sanctions, and not criminal sanctions (and implementing obligatory conscription if targets were not met), and I didn’t succeed,” said Shaked, sniping that “they preferred populism over substance.”
Because the new law will be voided if targets are not met for three years in a row, thereby in theory requiring full haredi conscription, Yesh Atid claims that this amounts to the imposition of criminal sanctions as their law stipulated.
Shaked argued however that since the Knesset will have a year to legislate a new law, there will never be any coercive conscription and the notion of criminal sanctions does not apply.
MKs from Agudat Yisrael, one half of the haredi United Torah Judaism Knesset faction, have said they will vote against the legislation, and have threatened to quit the coalition if it passes its third and final reading.
Shas too is voting against the bill, but it appears that both  Shas and Agudah intend to force through changes in committee. Degel Hatorah, the other half of UTJ, has been more receptive to the bill and could abstain.
The enlistment bill, which was drawn up by a special committee in the Defense Ministry, establishes combined targets for IDF service and the haredi civilian service program are lower than those set by the law passed in the last government.
The large majority of enlistees will need to go to the IDF to meet the targets, so for example the target in 2018 will be for 3,996 haredi men to enlist to either military or civilian service, 3,348 of whom must enlist to the IDF.
The targets then increase by 8% per year for the first three years, 6.5% for the next three years, and 5% for the following four years.
Financial sanctions against the general yeshiva budget will not go into effect in the first two years of the law’s life.
Should the actual number of enlistees in the third year fail to reach 95% of the annual target, the budgetary support for yeshivas will be reduced on an ever increasing scale.
In years three and four, budgetary support for yeshivas will be cut by one percentage point for every percentage point by which the target was missed, meaning that if the target was missed by 5% the budget will be cut by 5%.
In years five and six of the law, every one percent the target is missed by will lead to a 2% budget cut, in years seven and eight this will increase to 3% and in years nine and ten by 4%, meaning that if by 2027 the target is missed by 10% the budget for yeshivas will be cut by 40%.
Should the number of enlistees fall below 85% of the annual targets for three years in a row, the entire law will automatically be voided, and the Knesset will have a year to legislate a new law.
The definition of who is haredi will remain the same as was established by the 2014 law, meaning that an individual who studied for at least two years between the age of 14 and 18 in a haredi educational institutions will be considered haredi.
Significantly however, those meeting that definition but who left the haredi community between the age of 14-18 and subsequently enlist in the IDF will also be included in the haredi enlistment targets, even though they are no longer haredi.
The committee also proposed to increase the pay of regular soldiers, and increased state subsidies for a bachelors degree after military service for those who did full IDF service, in order to further incentivize IDF service and increase enlistment rates.