Knesset building
Knesset building Orel Cohen/FLASH90

A bill aimed at protecting draft deferments for yeshiva students gained government backing Monday morning, paving the way for passage of the 2019 state budget, averting a coalition crisis which threatened to topple Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which normally meets every Sunday, held a special session Monday morning to approve a haredi-backed draft law.

The session was led by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), and included Minister of Religious Services David Azoulay (Shas), Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin (Likud), and Immigration Minister Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beytenu).

The truncated committee meeting voted 3-1 to approve the bill, drawn up by Shas MK Yoav Ben Tzur. Approval by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation guarantees a bill government support, and obligates all coalition members to back the bill in the Knesset plenum.

Ben Tzur’s draft bill aims to protect existing draft deferments, renewable annually and with no limitation, for full-time yeshiva students, by enshrining Torah study as a national value. The bill would amend Israel’s Basic Laws, thus circumventing Supreme Court rulings against the deferments.

Monday’s vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation comes following an agreement between Netanyahu and haredi lawmakers Sunday night, effectively ending a month-long standoff on the bill.

Haredi MKs had threatened to block passage of the state budget, which by law must be passed by March 31st, if the Ben Tzur bill was not passed by the full Knesset. Failure to pass a spending bill would topple the coalition and force snap elections.

On Sunday, however, haredi lawmakers accepted a compromise agreement, under which the Ministerial Committee for Legislation would approve the bill on Monday, guaranteeing government support. The Knesset would then vote on the budget bill, with haredi support. The draft law would then be brought up for its first Knesset vote on Wednesday, with assurances from the government that it would be brought up for its second and third readings during the Knesset’s summer session.

Following the agreement Sunday night, however, Defense Minister Avgidor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party threatened to bolt the coalition government, warning that passage of a haredi-backed draft law would force Yisrael Beytenu to join the opposition.

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

Forer did, however, indicate his party was not dropping out of the government immediately, but would wait until final passage of the bill this summer.

“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.”