Court ruling on haredi draft law lands Netanyahu second legal blow

Court extends draft bill deadline by only six weeks.

The Supreme Court, Jerusalem (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Supreme Court, Jerusalem
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered a blow Sunday when the Supreme Court rejected his government’s request to extend the deadline for passing a controversial haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment bill by four months and gave him only until January 15.
Had the four-month extension been granted, Netanyahu could have gotten away without passing a new bill at all, waiting for the next Knesset recess and keeping the next election on schedule for November 5, 2019.
But because Likud officials have said the bill cannot be passed with the current makeup of his coalition, Netanyahu’s choices include passing the bill with the help of the opposition Yisrael Beytenu and Yesh Atid parties and letting United Torah Judaism force the election, or initiating the race on his own, perhaps after not enforcing the law for a period of time.
Either way, the decision made it much more likely that the next election will be held in May. If Arab MKs complain that the election cannot be held during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Tuesday, April 30 could be a possibility, as could early June after Ramadan ends.
Without the extension, technically, the government would have been required from Sunday to enlist all haredim of army age.
The court’s decision was a compromise between the request of the government and that of the petitioners against it, Yesh Atid and the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, which did not want any extension at all. The deadline had already been extended twice.
The government cited the November 16 resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman as its reason for seeking the extension.
Liberman said he was disappointed that the court did not decide “to put an end to a sensitive and painful issue that has festered since the state was formed.”
He complained that the court “enabled additional foot-dragging by a government that only cares about its own survival.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said Netanyahu could have passed the bill months ago.
“Instead, Netanyahu is once again surrendering to the haredim to keep his job,” Lapid said.