Report: PM told Haredi MKs he’d circumvent cabinet to push private bill on IDF conscription, as compromise hopes fade

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told representatives of the ultra-Orthodox parties that he would promote a private bill exempting yeshiva students from military conscription following the upcoming Knesset recess.

According to national broadcaster Kan, Netanyahu promised the Haredim he would promote private legislation because there is little chance that a government-sponsored bill currently under discussion would receive the go-ahead from either the cabinet or Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, who has expressed reservations regarding its legality.

By taking the private bill route, Netanyahu may be able to bring the legislation to the Knesset floor without needing to win approval from the cabinet or attorney general, though he will be unlikely to find much support for it outside United Torah Judaism and Shas, the coalition’s two Haredi parties.

Netanyahu’s promise was reportedly made during an hours-long meeting on Tuesday night with representatives of the two parties, which came to an end without any major progress, reports said.

A law allowing young Haredi men to repeatedly push off their military service in favor of yeshiva study until they reached the age of exemption expired last year. The High Court of Justice ruled that the current system is discriminatory and has given the government until April 1 to present a new bill and until June 30 to pass it.

Haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat reports that ultra-Orthodox representatives at the Tuesday meeting said they would not agree to even one yeshiva student being drafted, with another official stating that “there will be no compromises.”

The Haredim will resist such efforts even if it leads the High Court to cut yeshiva budgets, the first official reportedly said.

Baharav-Miara has previously told the High Court that as long as there is no law granting exemptions to ultra-Orthodox students, the government cannot continue to fund the yeshivas they attend.

A senior official from the Hasidic Agudat Israel faction told Kikar HaShabbat that the idea that it would withdraw from the government and force wartime elections was only Likud “spin.”

Unless Netanyahu can reach a compromise today, he will likely ask the court for a 10-day extension to submit his response, which is due today, to petitions demanding that the state begin drafting Haredi men of military age.

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