The coalition suffered a major defeat on Monday evening when its Chareidi conscription bill failed to pass in its first reading after a Meretz MK broke coalition discipline to vote against it. The Ra’am party’s support of the bill created a storm of tension between it and the Chareidi parties, which previously had worked together on many issues.
The coalition brought the bill to the Knesset for a vote despite knowing it may lack a majority vote [with many absent MKs due to COVID] due to a Supreme Court ruling that the government must make a decision on the bill by Wednesday after the Defense Ministry requested to delay the bill’s expiration date for the 11th time.
Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawite Zoabi voted against the bill and one Ra’am MK, Mazen Ghnaim, absented himself from the plenum, and the vote failed 54-54.
Zoabi justified herself by saying that the coalition that she’s a member of crossed two red lines the week before – in its actions against the Bedouins in the Negev, which she called “a disgrace of a brutal, oppressive and destructive policy,” as well as the Citizenship Law, which government ministers passed in a preliminary approval in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, terming it a “racist and fascist law.”
Prior to the vote, Shas chairman Aryeh Deri, who has had numerous discussions with Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbass regarding cooperation on various bills and issues since the formation of the new government, told Abbas: “Know that if you vote for the bill, you’re turning the Chareidim into the Arab sector’s biggest enemy. We won’t rest until all the Arabs are recruited into the army.”
“But it’s a good bill for the Chareidim,” Abbas responded.
“Shame on you!” Deri yelled back. “You’ll tell us what’s good for us and what’s not?! You have no right to decide for Chareidim and for Jews who will serve in the army when you yourselves don’t serve in the army.”
The Chareidim are vehemently opposed to the bill due to the fact that it calls for penalties and fines of yeshivos if annual recruitment targets aren’t met. If the bill’s Chareidi draft goals, which are set to increase incrementally over the years, aren’t reached, the fines will also incrementally increase to the point of a drastic reduction in yeshiva budgets.
Opposition MKs, especially the Chareidi ones, blasted the bill from the Knesset plenum, especially regarding Ra’am hypocrisy in voting for a bill mandating Chareidim, who don’t serve in the army due to ideological issues, to serve in the army when they themselves don’t serve in the army due to ideological issues.
“If a Jewish government enacts this law, it’s preferable that such a state not even exist,” UTJ MK Meir Porush said, also slamming the government’s two-faced policy toward Chareidim regarding “sharing the burden of IDF service” while turning a blind eye toward Arabs. “What’s perturbing is that Ra’am is receiving budgets although they don’t serve in the army while they’re telling us to serve in the army.”
Shortly after the bill fell, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issued a joint statement announcing that the government is working on formulating a new national service bill that will be brought for a vote in the coming weeks.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)