Yaakov Litzman
Yaakov LitzmanFlash 90

The Council of Torah Sages of the Agudat Yisrael faction of the United Torah Judaism party on Tuesday night instructed its representatives in the Knesset to delay their leaving the government over the Draft Law until the beginning of the month of Elul.

On Sunday, the government asked the Supreme Court to extend the deadline to pass the Draft Law for another seven months amid a deep impasse among the haredi parties regarding the wording of the bill.

In 2015, the Netanyahu government amended a draft law passed the previous year which had imposed limits on the number of permanent full-time yeshiva students eligible for draft deferments from the IDF, limiting the number of years most students would be eligible for deferments.

The 2015 law removed the limitations on draft deferments for full-time students, restoring the status quo ante which has prevailed in Israel since the late 1970s

In 2017, however, the Supreme Court intervened, throwing out the 2015 law and giving the government until September 2018 to pass a replacement. Without new legislation passed by September, thousands of yeshiva students could find themselves unable to renew their annual deferments, making them potentially liable for the draft.

With the deadline looming, the government has been frantically trying to pass the Draft Law before the Knesset's summer session ends. However, the haredi factions have been unable to find common ground on the law's wording resulting from an internal power struggle.

The Knesset approved the Draft Law in its first reading last Monday, with 63 MKs voting in favor of the legislation and 39 MKs voted against it.

The bill was approved despite the haredi parties voting against it, due to the fact that Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party supported it from the opposition.

The law determines recruitment targets for haredim, which grow in number every year, and imposes economic sanctions on yeshivas that do not meet these recruitment targets. Another clause states that the law will be repealed if the haredim fail to meet the recruitment targets for three consecutive years.

The haredim allowed the bill to pass its first reading, but have threatened to leave the coalition if it does not undergo significant changes before it is brought to a vote in its second and third readings.

Specifically, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman last week threatened to quit the government if no compromise is reached on the Draft Law within one week.