Binyamin Netanyahu and Yaakov Litzman ahead of Draft Law vote
Binyamin Netanyahu and Yaakov Litzman ahead of Draft Law voteHadas Parush/Flash90

The Knesset voted in favor of a draft law aimed at protecting service deferments for yeshiva students Tuesday night, approving the bill in its first reading by a margin of 59 to 38.

The bill, referred to frequently as the “Draft Law”, was submitted by Shas MK Yoav Ben Tzur in response to a 2017 ruling by the Supreme Court, which struck down open-ended draft deferments for full-time yeshiva students.

Ben Tzur’s bill, if passed in its second and third readings this summer, would amend Israel’s Basic Laws, enshrining Torah study as a national value and protecting draft deferments from future Supreme Court rulings.

Haredi lawmakers had demanded the government pass the bill and threatened to block passage of the 2019 budget until their demands were met.

With a statutory deadline of March 31st approaching for the budget plan, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu negotiated a compromise agreement with Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), under which the draft bill would be adopted by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation this week and passed in its first reading in the Knesset, followed by passage of the 2019 state budget. The draft bill would then be brought up for its second and third readings in the Knesset plenum during the Knesset’s summer session.

While the meeting secured haredi backing for the spending plan, it forced the Prime Minister into a confrontation with Yisrael Beytenu, which vowed to vote against the bill and threatened to bolt the coalition if it was passed into law.

“If the law is passed in its current form – we’re out,” Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer told Channel 10on Monday.

“We won’t let our hands be tied when it comes to security matters. We’ll leave the coalition if the bill is passed in the second and third readings.”

A last-minute deal between Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Liberman, however, defused the crisis, allowing Yisrael Beytenu MKs to vote against the draft bill while remaining in the government.