Haredim welcome draft law approval

Haredi parties pleased after draft law approved in first reading, promise to continue the legislative process during summer session.

Elad Benari ,

Gafni and Deri
Gafni and Deri
Flash 90

Knesset members from the haredi parties on Tuesday evening welcomed the approval in a first reading of the draft law aimed at protecting service deferments for yeshiva students.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said, "I am pleased that the amendment we brought to the draft law was approved by a large majority tonight."

"As I said from the beginning, we are talking about the continuation of the existing arrangement in which yeshiva students are able to work hard on their studies," Deri stressed. "I regret the fact that certain elements tried to make political gain and create an unnecessary crisis."

"I congratulate my coalition partners who showed responsibility at the moment of truth in order to enable this good social government to continue to work for the general public," added the Interior Minister.

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) attacked Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, saying, "I was thrilled to see that such a large majority supported a law that would allow yeshiva students to continue studying. I recommend that Lapid, who served in [the IDF newspaper] Bamahane not talk about sacrificing oneself for the army.”

MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) said the bill is "only a first step, a but very important one."

"I am pleased to see that the coalition succeeded in acting in accordance with common sense, to uphold the commitment to the haredi parties and to rectify the injustice caused by the Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the previous law," Eichler said.

"Immediately at the start of the summer session, we will ensure that the legislative process is completed so that we can arrive at the date set by the Supreme Court with a new law," he added.

Eichler also praised Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's position, saying, "The prime minister showed responsibility when he stood up to [Defense Minister] Liberman's attempts to topple the government and to run for elections over hatred of the haredim and those who study Torah. The Likud understood once again tonight that there are not and will not be better partners than the haredi parties. This partnership will continue for the benefit the citizens of Israel in general and the haredi sector in particular until the end of the term of the government as determined in advance."

Eichler also attacked Lapid, saying, "One sentence about Yair Lapid, who stood in the plenum this evening and spoke about the importance of military service as a way to protect the people: His devotion to Bamahane was already known. He will continue to incite, sow hatred, and lie. The history of our people has dealt with problems bigger than him, though much less ridiculous."

The draft law approved on Tuesday was submitted by Shas MK Yoav Ben Tzur in response to a 2017 ruling by the Supreme Court, which struck down open-ended draft deferments for full-time yeshiva students.

Haredi lawmakers had demanded the government pass the bill and threatened to block passage of the 2019 budget until their demands were met.

With a statutory deadline of March 31 approaching for the budget plan, Netanyahu negotiated a compromise agreement with Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), under which the draft bill would be adopted by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation this week and passed in its first reading in the Knesset, followed by passage of the 2019 state budget. The draft bill would then be brought up for its second and third readings in the Knesset plenum during the Knesset’s summer session.

While the meeting secured haredi backing for the spending plan, it forced the Prime Minister into a confrontation with Yisrael Beytenu, which vowed to vote against the bill and threatened to bolt the coalition if it was passed into law.

A last-minute deal between Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, however, defused the crisis, allowing Yisrael Beytenu MKs to vote against the draft bill while remaining in the government.