Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has announced repeatedly that he will resign his post and the coalition next week if the draft bill continues moving ahead. He explains he is following the directive of the admorim of the Agudas Yisrael faction of the Yahadut Hatorah party. This does not seem to be the opinion of the Degel Hatorah litvish faction of the chareidi party. In addition, while being affiliated with the Agudas Yisrael faction along with Litzman, the other members; Deputy Minister Porush and MKs Moses and Eichler have refrained from constantly waving this threat in front of PM Netanyahu as Litzman does.
Even if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wishes to delay moving forward with the draft bill to accommodate Litzman, and not completing it by the end of the current summer Knesset session as planned, he will have to obtain an extension from the High Court of Justice, since the latter set a deadline of summer’s end to pass a new draft law after disqualifying the previous one.
Many speculate the High Court will not agree to an extension. If this is the case, it is possible that it will announce that in light of a law providing a legal status for bnei Torah, all chareidim who are learning will immediately become eligible for draft.
Litzman’s resignation could also lead to early elections, which many feel would not take place until Teves 5779 at the earliest. Journalist Shimon Breitkopf writes in the weekly Mishpacha Magazine, that a meeting was held with heads of coalition factions, during which there was agreement with the motions put forward by Bayit Yehudi party chairman Minister Naftali Bennet. Bennet announced the High Court will be approached in the hope of obtaining an extension, but if one is not given, then elections must be immediate.
He adds that is a delay is granted, the chareidim will have to announce if they can live with the bill being drafted by September, and if appears they cannot, it will be agreed to that immediately upon the opening of the Knesset winter session, a vote will be taken to dissolve the Knesset and head to elections in January.
The Knesset winter session begins after the Tishrei Yomim Tovim.
The Mishpacha report adds that also present were Shas chairman, Minister Aryeh Deri, and Degel faction chairman, MK Moshe Gafne. They are not in agreement with Litzman and are not signaling they will resign as Litzman threatens to do. In short, they are trying to distance themselves from his threat.
However, it appears PM Netanyahu did not accept their effort, preferring to deal with all the chareidim as a single voice. He wishes to move ahead with the current version of the draft law. He feels even if the Agudas Yisrael faction breaks from the coalition, and all four members quit, there will be a coalition majority of 62 seats of the 120-seat Knesset, which is sufficient to permit completing the term without early elections.
The prime minister is quoted saying, “Working out between yourselves. As far as I am concerned, I am moving to pass the draft law before summer recess or we will head to [early] elections”.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)