Haredim: No vote on IDF draft bill, no state budget
After United Torah Judaism party told that early conclusion to Knesset Plenum precludes Wednesday’s vote on IDF conscription bill that would grant Yeshiva students equal status to army conscripts, party threatens another coalition rift by vowing to sabotage vote on 2018 state budget.
"The (amendment to the) Draft Law is an integral part of the coalition agreement and we expect all coalition parties to support it if they want the coalition to last," said party leader and deputy minister Yaakov Litzman.
The IDF draft law which is being promoted by the Ashkenazi Haredi party will not be brought for vote as scheduled at the Knesset Plenum Wednesday.
Despite threats made by UTJ, the coalition insisted that the vote on the bill would be delayed due to an early conclusion of the Knesset plenary session as the country celebrates the festival of Purim.
On Tuesday, UTJ’s MK Moshe Gafni, who heads the Knesset's Finance Committee, said he would not vote for any coalition bill proposals if problems arise with the IDF draft law.
Following up on the threat, the party, aware that approving the budget is a supreme interest of both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, said that it would not approve it.
UJT accepted the decision Wednesday morning by the Council of Torah Sages demanding that the bill be passed and made a condition for support of the state budget.
The demand, according to UTJ, leaves them with few options but to oblige.
The Council of Torah Sages first exhorted the party a few days ago to make their support dependent on the amendment to the draft law, but UTJ attempted to clarify at the time that this was not an explicit demand that if not followed would result in yet another coalition crisis.
However, matters changed on Wednesday with the party stating that its backing of the state budget entirely hinged on the fate of the draft law.
The UTJ is seeking to rapidly ram the bill through the Knesset in order to obtain, for the first time, official state recognition of Torah studies, in addition to stipulating that Torah studies be mandatory. In doing so, the bill would elevate the status of students of Torah to being equal to that of IDF conscripts.
The bill is intended to circumvent a decision by the High Court of Justice which stipulated that the current parameters of the law had to be changed and a new equality in the sharing of the burden in the IDF law would have to be legislated.
The ruling canceled an amendment ratified by the Knesset almost two years ago to the Conscription Law which lowered the annual quota on the number of Haredim required to draft into the IDF.
The new bill proposal, therefore, is an attempt by the UTJ party to bypass the decision and leave the current situation unaltered.
Aware of the sensitivity of the issue which has been an ongoing polarizing issue in Israeli society, Likud and Yisrael Beytenu warned UTJ that the potential fallout outweighed the positive results caused by catalysing the legislative procedure.
In addition, the Likud party is concerned that the bill will play into the hands of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, who may launch a rigorous campaign against it. This, the party fears, would only engender further embitterment among the secular members of the public who demand an equal sharing of the burden in military service.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman castigated UTJ's attempt to force the approval of a draft bill, calling their proposed legislation a "draft dodging bill." He further slammed their apparent holding of the coalition to ransom by using the state budget as leverage as "no less than extortion using threats."
Lieberman stressed that his party, Yisrael Beytenu, will "not surrender" to the UTJ's pressure and will not allow the bill to pass.