Most Religious Parties Likely to Stay Loyal to Netanyahu on Bill for Drafting ultra-Orthodox

Political sources say Shas and Degel Hatorah are expected to stay on board and keep the governing coalition whole, even though the senior partner in United Torah Judaism is vacillating

Israeli PM Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during the International Homeland Security Forum conference in Jerusalem, June 14, 2018
\ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

Two key ultra-Orthodox parties are inclined to support the bill on drafting ultra-Orthodox men into the Israel Defense Forces, sources in the parties said, a development that could help keep Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition intact.

The two parties are Shas and Degel Hatorah; the latter and Agudat Yisrael make up United Torah Judaism, which has six seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

Last week Agudat Yisrael’s Council of Torah Sages instructed the party’s Knesset members to vote against the bill and leave the coalition if the legislation moved ahead.

Netanyahu is to meet Sunday with Agudat Yisrael's Yaakov Litzman, the deputy health minister, to discuss the bill. Last week sources said the Council of Torah Sages wants to change the clause in the bill that would impose economic sanctions on yeshivas that did not meet their quota of draftees.

Degel Hatorah’s chairman, MK Moshe Gafni, told the ultra-Orthodox website Behadrei Haredim that the Degel Hatorah MKs “all support the bill” and were waiting for Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, the party’s rabbinic adviser, to finish a seven-day mourning period and officially announce his stance.

In an interview with the website Kikar Hashabbat, Gafni said: “The bill is all right. The Council of Torah Sages will meet and we’ll see what to do.”

But on Friday, Gafni added: “As with every issue, the Torah sages will be the ones deciding on the conscription bill, and as long as they haven’t made a statement, there’s no official decision.”

According to sources at the Torah-sages meeting last week, the Agudat Yisrael legislator pushing for changes to the bill was Meir Porush, who was at the meeting. The other Agudat Yisrael MKs in United Torah Judaism are Litzman, Menachem Eliezer Moses and Israel Eichler.

According to a source at the meeting, the Agudat Yisrael lawmakers were surprised at the council’s decision. Agudat Yisrael is the Hasidic faction in United Torah Judaism.