Commitee Still Divided Ahead of Meeting to Approve New Draft Law

Members of the Perry Committee do not know if they will be able to overcome disagreement on criminalizing draft dodging by ultra-Orthodox men.

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The Knesset's Perry Committee will convene Wednesday morning in an attempt to approve the new draft bill, which would provide guidelines for drafting ultra-Orthodox men into the army and national service.

At the center of discussion is the controversial clause 39 of the proposed law, which lays out the procedure for levying criminal sanctions on Haredim who evade the draft. While Yesh Atid is still demanding that the criminal punishment be enforced automatically under the law, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) demanded that he retain the final say on whether to enact criminal penalties on draft evaders.

Sources in Likud and Yesh Atid were unsure Tuesday if their parties would be able to agree on a compromise formulation of the law ahead of the morning meeting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Ya'alon to work to get the law through the committee notwithstanding clause 39.

"We are tense and don't know if the law will pass tomorrow, or if we will face another political maneuver," a source on the committee said told Haaretz Tuesday, referring to the brouhaha that erupted Sunday when the committee reached an impasse. 

Sources close to Ya'alon said in recent days that if the current wording of clause 39 does not change, the defense minister will vote against it despite his obligations to Netanyahu. In Likud, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who is also the chairman of Yesh Atid, was blamed for creating a "bogus political crisis" intended to strengthen his public standing following the criticism he received over the new state budget. Ya'alon alluded to Lapid two days ago when he said, "The atmosphere of hate and delegitimization is turning the wheel backward.”

Almost all the clauses of the new draft law, including a list of controversial ones, were approved in the committee talks held on Sunday, and those that have yet to be approved are mostly technical in nature. The committee members approved a clause making yeshiva heads criminally liable for falsely claiming gifted students, who would receive exemptions from mandatory military service under the law, were studying at their institutions. They also approved a clause obligating hesder yeshiva students, who are mostly members of the national religious movement, to do just 17 months of active military service, less than the mandatory service periods for people from other sectors of Israeli society that must serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

In response, MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) petitioned the attorney general on Tuesday, requesting that the arrangement for hesder yeshiva student approved by the Perry Committee be examined due to "the conspicuous inequality [in the law] to the benefit of the population that is the patron of the Habayit Hayehudi party.” She contrasted the treatment of hesder yeshiva students with that of the Haredi population, which she described as "facing a heavy hand that isn't necessarily constitutional." The fact that the law does not treat Israel’s different social groups equally, said Michaeli, would likely lead to a culture war.

A soldier in the Netzah Yehuda ultra-Orthodox battalion. Credit: Moti Milrod

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