Likud struggles to maintain support for Haredi Draft Law

As court-imposed deadline for new draft law nears, gov't looks to opposition parties to win majority in Knesset.

David Rosenberg ,

Netanyahu and senior Likud ministers
Netanyahu and senior Likud ministers
Hillel Meiri/TPS

The Likud pushed back Monday on accusations by opposition lawmakers that it had cut deals with haredi coalition partners to effectively neutralize provisions in a new haredi draft bill aimed at encouraging yeshiva students to enlist.

Earlier on Monday, the Yisrael Beytenu party, which bolted from the government last month following the signing of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas, suggested that it would not back the bill it had proposed prior to its departure from the government.

In an official statement from the party, Yisrael Beytenu blasted the government for requesting an additional delay from the Supreme Court in order to pass the law, and suggested that the Likud had cut a deal with haredi lawmakers to neutralize portions of the bill.

The Likud rejected the claims, calling them ‘spin’, and urged its former coalition partner to reassert its support for the bill.

“The Draft Law is a top national concern, and Liberman and Lapid must not be allowed to turn it into their political plaything,” the Likud said.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has vowed to back the bill, which was put together by the IDF, and which was brought to its first vote by Liberman and passed with Lapid’s support.”

“Contrary to the spin [Lapid and Liberman] are spreading, there are no deals or agreements with anyone. The bill will be voted on as it is currently drafted, in the same form that Liberman and Lapid supported, with no changes.”

The current bill under consideration was proposed by then-Defense Minister Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) prior to his departure from the coalition. The bill was drafted at his behest by a team of defense establishment officials, in lieu of another proposed piece of legislation put forth by haredi lawmakers.

The bill proposed by Liberman would largely retain the open-ended draft exemptions for full-time yeshiva students, but would impose financial sanctions on yeshivas which fail to meet the army’s induction quotas. In addition, the law includes a provision nullifying itself if the haredi sector as a whole fails to meet the army’s induction quotas.

The government has until January 15th to pass a bill replacing the current law, which was thrown out by the Supreme Court in 2017.

Following Yisrael Beytenu’s departure from the government last month, the Likud-led coalition has been left with a razor-thin majority of 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset, and has counted on support from both Yisrael Beytenu and Yesh Atid to pass the draft bill. Haredi lawmakers are unlikely to back the bill, leaving only 48 coalition MKs in favor of the proposed law.

Accusations by Yisrael Beytenu, however, that the Likud may have guaranteed haredi coalition partners that it will offer haredi yeshivas extra funding to compensate for the financial sanctions included in the law has put the government’s plans to pass the rely on support from the opposition in jeopardy.