High Court grants four-month extension to enact new draft law
The High Court of Justice approves the request to postpone the legislation on a new draft law but grants the government only three additional months to enact the law; The decision will most likely result in a further rift within the current coalition and trigger early general elections.
Last month, the state submitted a petition to the HCJ asking to postpone the implementation of the ruling on the draft law and allow it to complete legislation regarding Haredi enlistment into the IDF by the end of the Knesset’s winter session.
The existing Israeli Defense Service Law expires in September after the HCJ deemed it unconstitutional, meaning that the Knesset is obliged to pass an alternative law before then.
Last year, the HCJ made a majority ruling canceling an amendment ratified by the Knesset almost two years prior to the Conscription Law which lowered the annual quota on the number of Haredim required to draft into the IDF.
The judges emphasized in their decision that the law should be enacted no later than December of this year.
"After carefully considering the issue, we decided to partially approve the request and to postpone the cancellation of Chapter 3 of the Defense Service Law so that it will take effect on December 2, 2018 under the date set in the ruling," they wrote.
The decision creates an unsolvable crisis which might trigger general elections in the first three months of 2019.
The ultra-Orthodox factions in the government coalition have so far refused to change their position on the issue and support the bill, with Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman announcing that he would resign from the government if the law was approved.
It is estimated that a three-months extension will not be sufficient enough in order to find an appropriate solution to the issue in the near future, and given the fact that the original election date is already relatively close, the prime minister will most likely decide to hold early elections.
However, only a few days prior to the announcement on the extension, Netanyahu held talks with his coalition partners and reiterated his intention to hold the elections as planned.
In any case, the Knesset will resume its activities immediately after the holidays at the end of the summer recess and decide then whether the current Knesset will continue its activities until November 2019, or will disperse as soon as the winter session begins.
MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) responded to the court’s decision saying the law will not take precedence over the religious studies.
"The new timetable will enable us to complete the legislation, which is based on recognition of the value and importance of continued Torah study in the State of Israel," he added.
The Movement for Quality Government also issued a statement asserting the extension will not lead to finding a suitable solution.
“At the end of the day what is likely to happen is either another unconstitutional arrangement or another postponement ... The government is afraid to deal with the real issue which is equality,” the statement concluded.
The Yesh Atid party, which spearheaded the original amendment to the law, also issued a statement claiming the law should be approved as is.
"The High Court of Justice told the government today what we have been saying from the beginning—here is no need to wait any longer. The bill is ready. Not a single letter should be changed in it, as the defense minister has promised to the public and to the IDF. We support him, the Defense Ministry supports him, the IDF and the chief of staff support him and we have a majority in the Knesset,” read the official statement.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, reiterated the official statement saying the prime minister did not need an extension to begin with.
“There is no reason to allow Netanyahu to waste more time. Netanyahu does not need an extension. He needs courage. The legislation should be immediately approved so more Haredim will enlist, serve and integrate into the labor market … I call upon the prime minister to stop surrendering to the ultra-Orthodox parties and take Israel one step further towards equality,” he lamented.
Last month the state submitted a request to the High Court Sunday asking that the implementation of the current IDF draft bill, which is set to expire in the coming months, be extended for another seven months, thereby lending government leaders more time to reach an agreement on a newly-formulated law that has threatened to rip the coalition apart.
The state also argued that the time given in order for the government to come up with a replacement law, agreeable to all coalition members, was insufficient and is therefore insisting that more time is needed.