Knesset Adjourns on Peaceful Note, As Municipal Elections Law Passes

The Knesset voted late Tuesday night to hold municipal elections and Knesset elections on different dates.

The measure, backed by the Labor Party and most of the smaller factions, sailed through its second and third readings to become law. Likud adamantly opposed the change, but outnumbered, it boycotted the vote.

Mayoral and town council elections are now scheduled for Feb. 28, instead of Nov. 1, when Israeli voters will elect a new Knesset. Until now, local and national elections have been held concurrently.

The issue marked the last major clash between Labor and Likud in Parliament before the 11th Knesset adjourned Wednesday, after a day of relatively calm debate.

On Tuesday, the parties exchanged abusive recriminations over the handling of such matters as the Middle East peace process and the Jonathan Pollard spy scandal.

But on Wednesday, the two coalition partners set aside their differences temporarily to easily defeat seven no-confidence motions introduced by opposition parties.

The issues ranged from communal strife in Jerusalem to the highway accident rate, which has soared in recent days.

ARMY SERVICE FOR YESHIVA STUDENTS

Meanwhile, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee cast a vote Wednesday to require all yeshiva students to do military service, an issue that could have repercussions in the next Knesset.

The committee endorsed the recommendation of a special subcommittee to expand the Hesder yeshivas, unique among the Orthodox institutions, because students do military duty during their five-year course of religious studies.

The recommendations would require that all yeshiva students not enrolled in the Hesder system do military service when they reach age 24. This is six years later than the standard military age of 18.

The period of service would be less than the three years required of other Israeli youths. But the blanket exemptions, in force since the state was founded 40 years ago, would be abolished.

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