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Threat to Netanyahu’s coalition over ultra-Orthodox enlistment recedes

A group of Ultra Orthodox Jews stage a protest against the compulsory military service in Jerusalem, Israel on 19 October 2017 [İsrail Polisi - Handout/Anadolu Agency]
A group of Ultra Orthodox Jews stage a protest against the compulsory military service in Jerusalem, Israel on 19 October 2017 [İsrail Polisi - Handout/Anadolu Agency]

The rabbinical council governing the Agudat Yisrael faction of United Torah Judaism “gave the green light yesterday for its leaders to hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to reach an agreement over the latest version of the military enlistment bill”, reported the Times of Israel.

The development reduces but does not eliminate the risk that United Torah Judaism could withdraw from Netanyahu’s ruling coalition and trigger early elections.

The Council of Torah Sages of Agudat Yisrael agreed to consider backing the current bill if “a few changes are made”, a source within the party told the Times of Israel.

However, “Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman has said he will not accept any change to the legislation, potentially clouding the coalition’s prospects of reaching a compromise on the matter.”

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The legislation “sets minimum yearly targets for ultra-Orthodox conscription that, if not met, would result in financial sanctions on the yeshivas, or rabbinical seminaries, where they study.”

The law also “formalises exemptions for the vast majority of yeshiva students”.

According to reports, “while the Council of Torah Sages has said that the Agudat Yisrael faction will vote against the bill if the changes they are seeking are not made, it also ruled that its MKs will not quit the coalition if the legislation is advanced.”

Earlier yesterday, Netanyahu called for ultra-Orthodox leaders to back the latest version of the bill, “saying that he wanted to retain the current coalition and did not believe the government should be dissolved over the issue of Haredi conscription”.

“This is a good and balanced law,” he said. “It balances between the needs of the military, which prepared it, and, of course, the needs of the ultra-Orthodox public.”

READ: Israel police and ultra-orthodox Jews clash over conscription

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