In a deal with Coalition partner Yesh Atid, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu supported the imposition of criminal sanctions againt hareidi soldiers who evade military service, in exchange for the appointment of MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud) to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Exclusive sources revealed the deal to Arutz Sheva Tuesday afternoon, explaining that the move allowed the criminal sanctions - a clause Yesh Atid insists must be included in the Equal Burden of Service Law - to pass in the Shaked Committee, and for Hanegbi, who is a member of Netanyahu's own party, to be placed in a government position strategically important for the Prime Minister.
MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) was also due to serve as head of the key committee, but only toward the end of the current Knesset term. A rotation agreement was worked out after Netanyahu refused to immediately promote Shelah to the position, when it was vacated by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman
Last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu spontaneously ordered the vote over sanctions to be frozen after conflict erupted between the hareidi parties and the rest of the Committee board.
That conflict, over hesder yeshiva service, was in direct response to the criminal sanctions bid. As a United Torah Judaism MK explained to Arutz Sheva, the hareidi community views the clause as a threat. "You push us, we push back," he declared.
Opponents to the move to enact criminal sanctions warn that the proposal has already alienated the hareidi community, noting that the Shas party quit the Shaked Committee over the move.
Hareidi leaders have expressed strong opposition to criminal sanctions for yeshiva students, and some pro-enlistment leaders have warned that strong sanctions could create a backlash that would mean fewer hareidi men in the army, not more.
Netanyahu reassured the hareidi public last week that the drama over the criminal sanctions is overhyped. “I won’t be a part of sending Jews to jail for studying Torah," he declared.
The new law was brought back into the public eye following a High Court ruling suspending funding to yeshivas whose students had their enlistment deferred. That postponement was ordered by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon to give the Shaked Committee time to finish its work.
While the ruling was thought to be meaningless, given that February's yeshiva funds had already been allocated, Finance Minister Yair Lapid took advantage of a loophole to retroactively cancel funding to all yeshivas earlier this month, sparking massive hareidi protests.