Yeshiva draft law rul­ing makes early elec­tions likely

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ANSHEL PFEFFER

A HIGH Court de­ci­sion has dra­mat­i­cally in­creased the prospect of Is­rael’s next elec­tion tak­ing place ear­lier than ex­pected.

The rul­ing on Tues­day evening was on an ex­ten­sion that the gov­ern­ment had re­quested for pass­ing a new law on the draft­ing of strictly Or­tho­dox yeshiva stu­dents to the IDF.

The High Court ruled in Septem­ber 2017 that the pre­vi­ous law, passed in 2014, was un­con­sti­tu­tional and gave the gov­ern­ment twelve months to pass a new one.

The new law, which sets clear and in­creas­ing an­nual quo­tas for draft­ing yeshiva stu­dents, as well as fi­nan­cial sanc­tions for yeshivas which will not com­ply - and a time limit for the law if the quo­tas are not met - passed its first read­ing in the Knes­set two months ago.

But the strictly Or­tho­dox par­ties in the coali­tion, Shas and United To­rah Ju­daism, voted against the law and are threat­en­ing to leave the gov­ern­ment if it is not amended ac­cord­ing to their de­mands be­fore the fi­nal read­ing.

In an at­tempt to bridge the dif­fer­ences, the gov­ern­ment re­quested a seven-month ex­ten­sion of the High Court’s dead­line next month. The court agreed to ex­tend the dead­line only by three months, mean­ing that the law must now pass by mid-De­cem­ber. The Knes­set is cur­rently in re­cess and will re­turn to reg­u­lar ses­sion only in Oc­to­ber.

The rab­bis who lead the charedi par­ties are split over whether to ac­cept the law. Most of Shas’ rab­bis, and the “Lithua­nian” rab­bis who lead the Degel Ha’To­rah fac­tion of UTJ are in favour of sup­port­ing the gov­ern­ment as they be­lieve that the law is the best they can get un­der cur­rent cir­cum­stances. They also fear that in the next coali­tion, one of the cen­trist par­ties will en­ter the coali­tion, deny­ing them their cur­rent veto on leg­is­la­tion.

The Has­sidic rab­bis of the Agu­dath Yis­rael fac­tion, how­ever, have taken a more hard­line po­si­tion and be­lieve they can still force Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s coali­tion to change the law. The High Court’s rul­ing means that for the rest of the sum­mer and through the High Hol­i­days, fever­ish at­tempts will be made to find a com­pro­mise. Should these at­tempts fail, it seems in­creas­ingly likely that the first thing the Knes­set will vote on when it re­turns on Oc­to­ber 14 will be to dis­solve it­self and hold early elec­tions.

By Is­raeli law, elec­tions do not have to be held be­fore next Novem­ber, it now seems in­creas­ingly likely that the Knes­set will end its term at least six months pre­ma­turely.

It seems likely the Knes­set will soon end its term’

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