Liberman, Haredim Clash Over IDF Draft Law Opens Crisis for Government
Written by TPS on February 27, 2018
A fresh coalition crisis was left brewing Tuesday as haredi parties clashed with the Yisrael Beyteinu parties over a controversial bill to enshrine Torah study as “a foundational value of the heritage of the Jewish people” in the context of a basic law that would protect the exemption given to yeshiva students from being struck down by the Supreme Court.
Responding to a pledge by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to oppose the measure, which was tabled by the United Torah Judaism and Shas factions. United Torah Judaism faction leader MK Moshe Gafni said Tuesday that the party would stop supporting “crazy legislation” tabled by other coalition members.
“If members of the coalition oppose the measure, we will no longer vote for the crazy laws you are bringing,” Gafni said.
The bill would define “the state of Israel, as a Jewish state, sees supreme importance in encouraging Torah study and Torah students.” It was scheduled for a preliminary reading on the Knesset floor Wednesday but taken off the agenda following Liberaman’s opposition.
“Yisrael Beteinu’s stance (in favor) of Haredi military service is clear and consistent,” Liberman said on his Facebook page. “We will only support legislation drawn up by the professional staff established by the Defense Ministry.”
Liberman also added that he told the Defense Ministry committee to ignore any political agenda. “I ask you to follow one and only agenda – the IDF and the security of the citizens of Israel,” he wrote.
The defense minister’s remarks came a day after Yisrael Beteinu Faction Chairman Robert Ilatov demanded that coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud) pull the measure from a Knesset vote before coalition and government members have the opportunity to debate the bill, as per the coalition agreement.
Ilatov also said that Immigration Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, the party’s representative in the government, would vote against the measure, which would effectively mean she is resigning from the government.
The Shas-United Torah Judaism bill comes after the Supreme Court struck down an addendum to the Equality of Service Law in September the 2015 intended to push off a clause in the original law intended to delay legal requirements for increased haredi participation in the armed forces. Last September, the court gave the government one year to implement the original 2014 law.
The current move by the haredi parties is an attempt to bypass that ruling. Should the current bill win ratification as a basic law, the High Court would not have the jurisdiction to strike it down. As a basic law proposal, the bill requires 61 votes on the Knesset floor for ratification, rather than a simple majority of Knesset members in attendance at the plenum at the time of the vote.
Haredi exemption from military service has been a national issue since Israel declared independence in 1948 but has increasingly taken center stage as the number of exemptions has grown from 400 in 1948 to tens of thousands currently. During the 1990s, non-Haredi groups challenged the blanket exemption in court repeatedly, with the High Court of Justice repeatedly striking down the blanket exemption and ordering the state to legislate the issue formally.