Ultra-Orthodox Party Delays Threats of Quitting Netanyahu's Government Over IDF Draft Bill

Rabbis rule in the hope that Israel's High Court will grant the government an extension until April to pass new legislation regarding draft deferments and exemptions

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Yaakov Litzman and Benjamin Netanyahu, 2017.
Yaakov Litzman and Benjamin Netanyahu, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The Agudat Israel party’s Council of Torah Sages instructed its four lawmakers on Tuesday to delay resigning from the government coalition over a dispute about new military conscription legislation, until mid-August.

The decision was made in the hopes that the High Court of Justice will grant a government request to postpone further legislation on the measure until April. But the council has instructed the MKs to resign immediately if the court rejects that request.

The prosecution, filing on behalf of  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, with the approval of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, asked the court this week to extend a September deadline for suspending a current law regarding the draft submitted the petition to delay suspension of the law at the beginning of the week. 

The petition says that the government was still not ready with new legislation aimed at giving incentives to yeshivas to encourage their students to enlist in the IDF.  

Deputy Health Minister MK Yaakov Litzman of Agudat Israel had told Netanyahu he would resign from the Knesset at the end of its summer session this month, unless the extension was granted.

The main dispute over the bill is over what economic sanctions would be taken against yeshivas that do not meet enlistment quotas. Sanctions under consideration would include withholding government benefits from such yeshivas or doing away with draft deferments altogether if yeshivas as a whole fail to meet their targets. 

Agudat Israel is an Hasidic ultra-Orthodox party which, together with the two members of non-Hasidic Degel Hatorah, make up the Knesset party called United Torah Judaism. The Agudat Israel members are, Litzman, and MKs Meir Porush, Menachem Eliezer Moses and Israel Eichler.