Could Draft Law topple the coalition?

Draft Law supposed to be approved by beginning of December, but haredi parties are opposed. State likely to ask Supreme Court for extension.

Ben Shaul ,

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The Draft Law, which is supposed to be approved by the beginning of December in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling, is likely to cause a headache for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s narrow 61-member coalition.

The first hurdle in the approval of the law is already around the corner: If no changes are made to the wording of the legislation, the haredi factions are expected to oppose it, and Agudath Israel may even quit the coalition.

However, even if changes are made to the law as demanded by the haredi parties, the proposal is still unlikely to win a majority, since the factions in the opposition will not support the law.

In all likelihood, the government is expected to request another extension from the Supreme Court, although the chances that the Court will grant another extension are slim. This is due to the fact that even in the previous petition, the Supreme Court did not grant the government the full period of time it requested to approve the Draft Law.

Last year, the Supreme Court tossed out the 2015 amendment to the national draft law, arguing that its continuation of open-ended draft exemptions for full-time yeshiva students constituted discrimination.

The court demanded the government pass a new law or face the sudden termination of the draft exemption program for yeshiva students.

Haredi coalition members have lobbied the government to amend the country’s Basic Laws, allowing new legislation to circumvent the court’s ruling and preserve the current system of open-ended draft exemptions for full-time yeshiva students.

Former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), who has since resigned from his post, has opposed the haredi proposal, submitting an alternative bill drawn up by Defense Ministry and IDF officials.

Liberman’s bill would maintain open-ended draft deferments, but would impose mandatory quotas for enlistment in the haredi community, rising annually, which if are not met for three years in a row would lead to the automatic nullification of the deferment system. Financial sanctions would also be imposed on individual yeshivas which do not met enlistment quotas.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) recently dismissed suggestions the Knesset should be dissolved over the new Draft Law.

“I don’t think it is a problem to solve the dispute over the Draft Law,” Edelstein said. “Netanyahu rightly said to the coalition partners, ‘Sit together and come up with a solution to the crisis.’ It’s not an unsolvable dilemma.”