'Equal Burden' Bill Gets Stuck in Committee

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Sources in Yesh Atid on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Habayit Hayehudi Knesset faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked of a joint attempt to void the draft reform bill of meaning, just weeks before it is brought before the Knesset for a vote.

The criticism stems from Shaked’s actions, supported by Likud, to approve a clause in the bill that would allow the cabinet to determine whether the annual quota of ultra-Orthodox draftees has been met. This would mean that the cabinet would be able to decide each year whether to make do with the number of ultra-Orthodox entering the army, even if that figure does not conform to the set quotas.

On Tuesday, Shaked dispersed the meeting of the committee she heads that is preparing the legislation after she realized that a majority of its members did not support her proposal, but rather supported an alternative proposed by Yesh Atid faction chairman MK Ofer Shelah. Shelah proposes that the cabinet would announce whether the quotas had been met, but would not determine whether they had been met. He wants the bill to state that the quota for ultra-Orthodox draftees in July 2016, when the law comes into force, is 5,200. However, this proposal was also not put to a vote Tuesday.

“Netanyahu and Habayit Hayehudi are disgracing themselves in last-minute attempts to void the law of content,” sources in Yesh Atid said, adding that the attempts also contravened the will of most members of the Shaked Committee.

Sources close to Shaked said Tuesday that the committee’s legal advisers were behind the demand to allow the cabinet to determine whether the ultra-Orthodox induction quota had been met.

“Shaked believes that in a situation in which 5,180 Haredim are inducted instead of 5,200, the cabinet must be allowed to recognize that the Haredi public had met its draft quota,” members of the chairwoman’s inner circle said. They also said the Shaked and Shelah had agreed to reject a demand by the committee’s legal advisers to add “criteria” to the bill that would allow broad leeway in approving major departures from the quota of ultra-Orthodox draftees.

Meanwhile, the committee seems to have reached consensus on a definition of who is ultra-Orthodox for the purpose of the draft quotas, part of which is that the draft candidate be a student at an ultra-Orthodox institution for at least two years between the ages of 14 and 18. Shelah confirmed that the definition “would be clear so that only those who are really Haredi will be counted in the quotas.”

Shelah also said that the army did not want to be tasked with the obligation to draft the Haredim, which Brig. Gen. Gadi Agmon, head of IDF planning and human resources, said was not the case. “I don’t understand why we don’t set clearer goals in the bill. I expect that a gradual increase in the number of Haredi draftees will be defined by rising percentages each year. It is clear to us that 2013 will not be the same as 2020,” Agmon said.

MK Ayelet Shaked, pictured here in the Knesset, has own admiration for her handling of the delicate issue of drafting the ultra-Orthodox.Credit: Michal Fattal

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