Yitzhak Goldknopf
Yitzhak GoldknopfHezki Baruch

MK Moshe Roth (United Torah Judaism) and members of the Agudat Yisrael faction on Tuesday submitted a bill to pass, "Basic Law: Torah Study."

The United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party is comprised of two factions: the Lithuanian-haredi Degel Hatorah, and the hasidic Agudat Yisrael.

The proposed bill would recognize Torah study as significant service to the State of Israel and the people.

According to the bill, "The State of Israel as a Jewish state sees great importance in encouraging Torah study and those who study Torah." In accordance with this, the bill proposes "to anchor appropriately in a Basic Law the great importance and enormous value which the State sees in Torah learning, and its desire to encourage Torah study."

"Those who take upon themselves to devote themselves to the study of Torah, for a significant period of time, will be considered as those who serve, in a significant capacity, the State of Israel and the Jewish nation, and this will influence their rights and obligations."

Roth said, "In the coalition agreement it was agreed that this bill would be a government bill, but this was not done in the agreed-upon timetable. Therefore we have decided to submit this law as a private bill on behalf of the entire party, so that we will be able to advance the law immediately at the beginning of the winter [Knesset] session."

Sources close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fumed, with the Likud publishing an announcement that said, "The bill on Torah study is not on the agenda and will not be advanced." The Sephardic-haredi Shas party and the Degel Hatorah faction expressed amazement at the bill's submission, saying that this was a step which was not taken in coordination with them.

Degel Hatorah also emphasized that from their perspective, there is no need for such a law: "This bill was signed around a month ago. If it is advanced, it will be in coordination with the coalition parties."

Several Likud MKs also expressed dissatisfaction with the bill.

The United Torah Judaism party responded, "As was agreed in the coalition agreements, we will find a solution for the draft issue which is agreed upon by all of the coalition parties. We prepared the bill, at the time, as part of a comprehensive solution. The time that the bill was placed on the Knesset's table is coincidental, and the entire issue will be handled in agreements between the coalition parties. We are sorry for anyone who tries to blame this bill for what it does not have."