Netanyahu also met this week with political leaders of both haredi parties in what some see as a bid to bring the haredi parties into the ruling coalition, which would force Yesh Atid (and, perhaps, Hatnua) to walk out.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Netanyahu: No Criminal Penalties For Haredi Draft Dodgers
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
“I will not be a part of sending Jews to jail for studying Torah,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly said this week.
Netanyahu’s statement – ruling out criminal penalties for haredi yeshiva students who dodge the the draft – was made in response to a question from West Bank settler leader and Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika, who is linked to the Zionist Orthodox HaBayit HaYehudi Party.
Right wing Zionist Orthodox rabbis side with haredi rabbinic and political leaders on this issue and oppose criminal penalties for any yeshiva students who dodge the draft.
HaBayit HaYehudi’s Member of Knesset Ayet Shaked is chairing the Knesset committee that is writing the new universal draft law that will, among other things, draft haredi yeshiva students in order to comply with a ruling of the High Court of Justice. In committee discussions, Shaked has consistently opposed criminal penalties for haredim who dodge the draft.
However, Yesh Atid, the second largest party in the governing coalition after Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu list, strongly demands the new draft law include criminal penalties for haredim who dodge the draft and has threatened to bolt the coalition if the new law does not include them.
The much smaller Hatuna Party, which is also in the coalition, also wants criminal penalties for haredi draft dodgers as does the largest opposition party, Labor.
Yesh Atid, HaTnua and Labor all argue that just as non-haredim are jailed for draft dodging, haredim also must be jailed if they dodge the draft. They also argue that without the criminal penalties, haredim will dodge the draft with impunity.
Netanyahu and his defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon of the Likud Party – who already illegally exempted hundreds of haredim from the draft and was sharply criticized by Israel’s High Court of Justice for doing so – argue that the government should offer positive inducements and perks for haredim who choose to serve in the IDF. No criminal penalties – or even civil sanctions – should be imposed.
Netanyahu’s Likud Party has no natural allies in Knesset except for the two haredi parties – the Sefardi Shas Party and, especially, the Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism Party (UTJ). But neither haredi party is currently in the ruling coalition because Netanyahu could not form a government that included them.
But Netanyahu also met this week with political leaders of both UTJ and Shas in what some see as a bid to bring the haredi parties into the ruling coalition and drive Yesh Atid (and, perhaps, Hatnua) out.