Yeshiva draft law ruling makes early elections likely
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’