Despite Absence of the Opposition, Knesset Approves ‘Equal Burden’ Law

The Knesset approved the ‘Equal Burden’ law today (Wednesday), according to which thousands of Haredi Yeshivah students will be drafted into the Israeli Defense Forces beginning in 2017. The opposition protested the vote, and even in the coalition there was disagreement after MK Chetboun (Jewish Home Party) voted against the law.
Haredi draft, illustration. Photo Credit: Channel 2

With 67 votes for and one against, the Knesset passed the ‘Equal Burden’ law today (Wednesday) that was formulated in the Shaked Committee. The only opponent of the law was MK Yoni Chetboun of the Jewish Home Party, who revealed yesterday that he would vote against the bill to draft thousands of Haredi Yeshivah students into the military. The vote was carried out while members of the opposition remained close in their separate meeting in one of the Knesset halls out of protest for the recent bills up for vote in the parliamentary body.

The controversial law establishes that the Haredim will begin to be drafted into the military beginning in 2017, after a period of acclimation. That means in another four years, those Haredim who do not adhere to the draft laws will be punished with criminal sanctions. The Shaked Committee provided the Minister of Defense with the authority to put off the drafting of Haredim until the age of 21 years if need be, and even to 26 years-old if the community cooperates with the objectives set out in the law. The committee also established that if the Haredim maintain the objectives set out in the law, 1800 of them will be defined as “diligent” and will receive a full pardon from military service. In addition, the committee established that service for women will not be extended until 2016 and that Chabad believers living overseas will be able to participate in civil service for their country.

MK Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home Party), who headed the committee, called on the Haredi community this morning to join to military service: “Whoever is not learning should be brave and join the army”. Shaked pointed out that civil service is “a privilege given only to the Haredi community, because we believe that they have much to contribute in the military and the various branches of civil service —the police, Magen David Adom, and firefighters”. Shaked stressed during the vote in the Knesset that the military draft is only part of the integration of the Haredi community into wider Israeli society, “The Haredi public is talented and intelligent, and the work force needs to aim them in the process of integration”.

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Lapid and Bennett, the law's main supporters. Photo Credit: Reuters

Opposition absent, but Avodah supports the law

Despite the fact that the opposition protested the voting in of the bill, similar to yesterday’s voting abstention on the ‘Law of Governance’, the Avodah Party announced that, “If we were to participate in the vote on the ‘Equal Burden’ law, we would have voted for”. It seems that the latter statement may have tactical significance, in order to increase favoritism for MK Benjamin (Fuad) Ben Eliezer’s run for the presidency, after the ‘Yesh Atid’ Party stated that they will not support a candidate for president who does not approve the ‘Equal Burden’ bill.

However, the Avodah Party expressed their frustration with the management of the coalition, “Instead of looking for a wider common denominator, the coalition chose to divide and incite. It seems that for a number of factors, the desire to make the headlines trumped any practical judgements on the matter”. The Chairman of the Avodah Party, Yitzhak (Boji) Herzog stated that, “The Avodah has clear positions and in an act of protest against the coalition’s destructive policies, we decided not to attend the Knesset hearings. We have not and will not hide our opinions from the public or from our partners in the opposition”.

“There needs be dialogue that will lead to the inclusion and immersion of Haredim in Israeli society, in the work force, in the national service and the military. The state of Israel does not know how to manage this dialogue. If I were to vote today, I would vote in favor of the law despite the fact that it does not create equality or integrate Haredim into society, despite the reservations I have heard regarding the criminal sanctions and the discrimination in favor of Yeshivahs as part of the Hesder (combined army service and Judaic studies)”, stated Herzog.



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