United Torah Judaism members
United Torah Judaism members Hezki Ezra

Hareidi MKs were livid Wednesday at the Shaked Committee's proposal to enact criminal sanctions for hareidi draft-dodgers, and place the blame squarely with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. 

"Netanyahu deceived us when he met with us again and promised that there would be no criminal sanctions against Torah scholars," a United Torah Judaism MK told Arutz Sheva. "Today he claimed that he was forced into it for political reasons, but the responsibility falls on him and only him."

"He is the Prime Minister and it is his job to be sensitive to the needs of his people," the MK continued. "Today he wasn't there [for us]." 

The MK also attacked Committee Chairman Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home). "She gave us the feeling that there might be something to talk about, that we might be able to reach an understanding," the MK claimed. "But at the end of the day, the results show that she picked a formula [for the draft bill] that was remarkably similar to Yesh Atid's. The Bennett-Lapid pact is stronger than ever before." 

Tensions Snowball

Wednesday's remarks follow a dramatic turn of events in the drafting process, when Netanyahu spontaneously ordered the vote over sanctions to be frozen Tuesday 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 bid as a threat. "You push us, we'll push back," he fired. 

Opponents to the move to enact criminal sanctions warn that the proposal has already alienated the hareidi community even more from the idea of a draft, after 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.

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.

Meanwhile, the simmering tensions between hareidi MKs and the rest of the Committee boiled over Wednesday morning, when the hareidi MKs walked out of a Committee meeting in protest.

"The criminal sanctions Shaked is trying to enact the hareidi community are illegitimate," MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) stated to the press then. "They were only accepted [to be drafted to the bill] because of the alliance between Yesh Atid and Jewish Home. Only two of the eight committee members are currently present at the meeting now," he explained. 

On Tuesday, Jewish Home MK Uri Orbach lashed out at the "outpouring of hatred" by hareidi leaders towards Religious Zionists in particular, and over the draft law in general.