Coali­tion ten­sions brew­ing over haredi mil­i­tary-ex­emp­tion law

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By JEREMY SHARON

The gov­ern­ment coali­tion ap­pears to be headed for trou­ble over the is­sue of haredi en­list­ment to the IDF, with Ku­lanu in­di­cat­ing that it will not tol­er­ate ef­forts by the ultra-Ortho­dox par­ties to insert an over­ride clause into new leg­is­la­tion to pre­vent the High Court of Jus­tice from in­ter­ven­ing once again.

United To­rah Ju­daism chair­man Ya’acov Litz­man said Wed­nes­day his party would insert just such an over­ride clause in new leg­is­la­tion to re­store the gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to grant mass ex­emp­tions from mil­i­tary ser­vice to haredi yeshiva stu­dents, adding that Ku­lanu chair­man Moshe Kahlon had agreed to the idea dur­ing coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions should it be re­quired

Se­nior Ku­lanu MK Roy Folk­man told The Jerusalem Post he did not re­call any such com­mit­ment, de­nounced at­tacks on the High Court as dan­ger­ous and harm­ful to the coun­try and called for “se­ri­ous” and mean­ing­ful leg­is­la­tion on the haredi-en­list­ment is­sue.

Yis­rael Beytenu leader Avig­dor Liber­man also has said he op­poses an over­ride clause, sug­gest­ing that the gov­ern­ment faces a rough ride in the com­ing Knes­set ses­sion when deal­ing with the fall­out of the High Court’s de­ci­sion to strike down the law that al­lows mass haredi ex­emp­tions from mil­i­tary ser­vice.

Folk­man told the Post on Thurs­day that the 2015 leg­is­la­tion struck down by the High Court on Tues­day was poor and in­co­her­ent pol­icy that the court had rightly de­ter­mined to be un­rea­son­able; he ac­cused Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu of evad­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for ac­tu­ally deal­ing with the knotty is­sue by al­low­ing the law to pass in the first place.

“The leg­is­la­tion was made in a bad way, and quite of­ten the prime min­is­ter doesn’t want to con­front the hard is­sues such as en­list­ment, con­ver­sion and other re­li­gion and state is­sues, and in­stead of mak­ing a de­ci­sion we pass the ball on­ward. That’s what hap­pened,” said Folk­man.

The MK added that he did not be­lieve the haredi par­ties would ul­ti­mately in­sist on an over­ride clause, but was non-com­mit­tal when asked how Ku­lanu would re­spond if they do. He did, how­ever, tell Army Ra­dio ear­lier on Thurs­day that “an over­ride clause would not hap­pen on our watch.”

Folk­man said he be­lieved the coali­tion could be­gin a di­a­logue on se­ri­ous, sub­stan­tive leg­is­la­tion that pro­vides an­swers to the High Court’s con­cerns with the lack of equal­ity in­her­ent in the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.

“We want to help in­te­grate the haredim into the army in a rea­son­able man­ner while pre­serv­ing the prin­ci­ple of yeshiva study ex­emp­tions to some ex­tent,” he said.

“I ex­pect the prime min­is­ter and other coali­tion mem­bers to bring about se­ri­ous so­lu­tions for se­ri­ous is­sues and not to just find ex­cuses by throw­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity onto the court.”

Speak­ing on Wed­nes­day to Yis­rael Beytenu ac­tivists, Liber­man made sim­i­lar com­ments, say­ing the High Court de­ci­sion was an op­por­tu­nity to cor­rect “in­jus­tices” in the lack of draft equal­ity, and say­ing it would be “a mis­take to talk about an over­ride clause, we need to talk about real change.”

While ten­sions emerge in the coali­tion over the haredi en­list­ment co­nun­drum, Yesh Atid chair­man Yair Lapid is ramp­ing up pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment, and promised to bring the pub­lic out to the streets against any at­tempt to cir­cum­vent the High Court.

“The haredim, at least, be­lieve in some­thing. Ne­tanyahu and the min­is­ters have al­ready made it clear they be­lieve in noth­ing, they sim­ply want to pro­tect the coali­tion,” Lapid told Ye­diot Aharonot on Thurs­day.

“Now, ei­ther they will need to leg­is­late a law sim­i­lar to ours, or the gov­ern­ment will fall,” he con­tin­ued, re­fer­ring to the coali­tion ten­sions.

“If there is an at­tempt to leg­is­late a law cir­cum­vent­ing the High Court, we will flood the streets,” he threat­ened, while call­ing on Liber­man to stand by his de­mands and prom­ises for draft equal­ity.

Sep­a­rately, a meet­ing be­tween em­bat­tled Shas MK Yi­gal Gueta and Deputy Knes­set Speaker Nava Boker sched­uled for Thurs­day in which the Shas law­maker was set to sub­mit his res­ig­na­tion did not tran­spire.

Gueta sent a let­ter of res­ig­na­tion to Shas chair­man Arye Deri after com­ing un­der pres­sure from promi­nent rab­bis to stand down as a Shas MK for hav­ing spo­ken on the ra­dio about at­tend­ing the wed­ding of a gay nephew two years ago with his wife and fam­ily.

A meet­ing has now been sched­uled for Sun­day morn­ing be­tween Gueta and Knes­set Speaker Yuli Edel­stein, who is re­turn­ing from abroad, although ef­forts are still afoot within the Shas Coun­cil of To­rah Sages to for­mu­late a way in which Gueta can keep his seat while apol­o­giz­ing for hav­ing pub­licly dis­cussed the wed­ding.

(Elli Wohlgel­ern­ter)

HAREDI MEN wear­ing sack­cloth demon­strate in Jerusalem’s Kikar Shab­bat yes­ter­day against the draft of ultra-Ortho­dox yeshiva stu­dents.

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