An IDF-approved bill for haredi military conscription is almost ready, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said at the Knesset on Monday.
“We’re near the end,” Liberman said at a meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu faction, expressing confidence in the Defense Ministry’s committee drafting the legislation. The Defense Minister would not say what he expects the bill to entail.
Liberman’s remarks came as United Torah Judaism threatened to exit the coalition, which could spark an election if the government does not pass a law to the its satisfaction.
A letter from Health Minister and UTJ chairman Ya’acov Litzman and Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out that the premier said a new bill would be proposed by the Defense Ministry within a month of the Knesset summer session’s start on April 30. Despite your many concerns, we wish to turn your attention to an important and elementary matter that is dearer to us than all else,” Litzman and Gafni wrote on Wednesday.
Implying that the fate of the coalition depends on the conscription law, they added: “We are now coming to the end of three years since this government, led by you, was formed... The central issue without which we would not have joined the coalition is regulating the status of yeshiva students regarding the enlistment laws. If it weren’t for the article in the coalition agreement about the status of yeshiva students, we would not have been partners in this coalition, and that is the instruction for the future, as well. We are full of hope that what was promised will be fulfilled, and we expect your response.”
Gafni and Litzman said Netanyahu assured that “in the state of the Jews there will not be a limitation on who can study Torah.”
In September 2017, the High Court of Justice overturned the government’s broad exemptions for full-time haredi yeshiva students from serving in the army, and told the government to pass a new law within a year.
In March, the coalition was in crisis over the matter, with Liberman insisting it only pass a law approved by the Defense Ministry. In an eventual compromise, the coalition voted for a Shas bill, which is supposed to be merged with the Defense Ministry bill Liberman agreed would be submitted by the month’s end.