Knesset passes draft law requiring haredi Orthodox men to serve


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Knesset passed a law requiring haredi Orthodox yeshiva students to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

The controversial law, which removes most exemptions for haredi Orthodox yeshiva students, passed Wednesday by a vote of 65 to 1. The single vote against the law was from the Jewish Home Party’s Yoni Chetboun, who was sanctioned by the coalition for his vote.

The opposition parties boycotted the vote after the government coalition limited debate on the bill as well as two other controversial bills: the Governance Act, which was passed on Tuesday and raises the election threshold to 3.25 percent, and the referendum bill, scheduled for a vote on Thursday and which requires that any peace deal that would cede land to be submitted to a referendum.

Under the military draft law prepared by the Shaked Committee, haredi men would be criminally charged for evading the draft, but the penalties would not go into effect until 2017. In addition, draft orders for haredi men up to age 26 will not go into effect until up to a year after the law is implemented.

The Tal Law, which allowed haredi men to defer army service indefinitely, was invalidated by the Supreme Court in February 2012 and expired in August that year. Haredi yeshiva students since then have had their drafts deferred.

Hundreds of thousands of haredi Orthodox men protested earlier this month Jerusalem against the new law. A similar and smaller prayer rally was held in New York lover the weekend.

“Israel today lost the right to call itself a Jewish or a democratic nation,” Moshe Gafni of the haredi Orthdox United Torah Judaism Party said after the vote. “The haredi community will not forget this and it will not forgive [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his partners for trampling on the delicate fabric that binds the different communities in Israel.”

The law fulfills a campaign promise by Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party.

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