Ultra-Orthodox Party Faction 'Won’t Back' Current Version of Contested IDF Draft Bill Rocking Netanyahu's Government

Netanyahu wants to reach an agreement on the bill within two weeks and pass it by the end of the Knesset’s summer session, in five weeks

Yaakov Litzman and Benjamin Netanyahu, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

MK Menachem Eliezer Moses of Agudat Yisrael, the Hasidic component of United Torah Judaism, said Monday that his faction would not support the Haredi conscription bill in its current format. Speaking to Army Radio, Moses explained that his party’s Council of Torah Sages isn’t prepared to back a bill that calls for economic sanctions against yeshivas that don’t meet their draft quotas.

“Yesterday I went back and asked the Torah sages if we can pass it, at least in first reading, to gain a little time, and they said unequivocally no. Not until the indirect criminal sanctions are removed,” he said.

“This is not an act,” he added. “This is a real crisis.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to reach an agreement on the bill within two weeks and pass it by the end of the Knesset’s summer session, in five weeks. Netanyahu told the coalition party heads Sunday that it wasn’t worth calling early elections because of a dispute over drafting Haredim.

Last week Agudat Yisrael’s Council of Torah Sages told its MKs to leave the coalition if a conscription bill passes that imposes economic sanctions on the yeshivas. Degel Hatorah — the non-Hasidic faction of UTJ — along with Shas, is leaning more toward supporting the bill.

Last week a committee charged with preparing a new conscription bill published its recommendations. The committee recommended setting new recruitment targets for the Haredim for army and national service, gradually increasing the number of recruits each year, imposing economic sanctions on yeshivas that do not meet recruitment goals and increasing benefits for all those serving. Economic sanctions would not be imposed during the first two years of the law’s implementation.