Opposition MK Avigdor Liberman on Sunday poured criticism on a government agreement to ensure speedy changes to a universal military draft law sought by ultra-Orthodox parties who want to see members of their communities continue to be exempt from serving.
Under the terms of the agreement between coalition parties, the changes in the draft law are to be approved by the Knesset only after the national budget is passed by parliament, but no later than November 25.
Liberman, who leads the secularist Yisrael Beytenu party, published on his Facebook page a photo of the agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Education Ministry Naftali Bennett, and Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee Aryeh Deri to push the changes within weeks.
Liberman called the pact a “letter of submission and shame,” accusing the ministers of being “committed to exempting the ultra-Orthodox from national service and to harm the youths who serve in the IDF and who are ready to die for the State of Israel.”
Liberman is a strong proponent of the mandatory draft extending to all Israelis. In the past ultra-Orthodox Jews and many Arabs have been exempt from military or national service.
מכתב הכניעה והבושה!נתניהו, כחלון, בנט ודרעי מתחייבים לפטור את החרדים מגיוס ולפגוע בצעירים שמשרתים בצה״ל ושמוכנים למות…
The letter of agreement with the signatures of Netanyahu, Kahlon, Bennett, and Deri in the bottom left hand corner:
According to the Hebrew-language Ynet website, the changes in law will see plans to absorb ultra-Orthodox men into the army and national service pushed off for six years.
The 2015-2016 budget must be brought to a second and third reading by Thursday. If the budget fails to pass by the deadline, the government goes to elections.
The Knesset’s Finance Committee approved the budget for its second and third readings on Sunday night, kicking off several days of marathon debates.
On Sunday the United Torah Judaism faction in parliament had continued to demand that the changes in draft law be applied before the budget is approved — which would have necessitated three Knesset readings of the adjustments within a week. However, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein refused to allow the process to be rushed through parliament, Channel 2 reported.
Nonetheless, a first reading of the law is to expected to be made on Monday.
The last government — in which Liberman’s party was a coalition partner but the Haredi parties were not — passed laws to include the ultra-Orthodox in Israel’s mandatory military draft and encourage the teaching of math and English in government-funded Haredi schools. Many of the changes were pushed by the upstart Yesh Atid party, which is now also in the opposition..
JTA contributed to this report.