Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Kislev 5761 - December 13, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Temporary Draft Law Postponed at Last Minute
by Eliezer Rauchberger

At the last minute, the Knesset plenum refrained from voting on the first reading of the temporary law to continue the current arrangements for the drafting of yeshiva students for a year. UTJ's representatives had no choice but to agree to the postponement of the voting.

In the Knesset, a majority was arranged to approve the temporary law at a first reading. However, shortly before the voting it became known that Prime Minister Barak was planning to totally remove the proposal from the Knesset table, as permitted by Knesset regulations due to the fact that it a government proposal.

UTJ and Shas Knesset tried to persuade Barak and chairman of the government coalition Ofir Pines not to retract the proposal, but in vain. Having no choice, they were forced to agree to a compromise according to which the law will not be totally removed form the Knesset table, but that voting will be postponed to a later date, until the High Court decides the motions filed for an additional extension in the deadline for arranging the draft status of yeshiva students which may enable the passage of the full, "permanent" law.

After the announcement of the Knesset Speaker that the voting was postponed, a tremendous commotion erupted in the Knesset. Opponents of the law thought they could defeat it in a vote. Chairman of Shinui Tomy Lapid protested the postponement and claimed that "deals" had taken place. He then asked to transform the issue into a no-confidence proposal against the Prime Minister. Chairman of the Meretz party in the Knesset Zahava Gal-On began to shriek (literally) and called the postponement "a grab, a disgrace."

Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz, who arrived at the Knesset directly from his sickbed in order to vote, tried to explain the importance of the law to the Knesset members. He said: "There is no doubt that we are handling one of the most important laws in the country. This law is very important for the Torah world, and for the Jewish nation. It is a law which is absolutely vital to us from every aspect one regards it. Because this law is so extremely important to us, a majority of the members the committee which prepared it, and of which I was a member, sincerely wished to pass it, and to settle the issue at least temporarily by means of a limited order for a year. However, to my dismay, the law got caught up in political events which occurred all of a sudden, and I hope that we will pass the law as soon as possible."

Rabbi Moshe Gafni noted that at the meetings of the special committee which prepared the law, Tomy Lapid himself proposed asking the Supreme Court for an extension of a number of months in order to arrange the law, and suggested that in the meantime the situation be arranged through a temporary measure. For that reason, Rabbi Gafni attacked Lapid who, he said, did an about-face, attacking the law and the idea of the a temporary measure which he himself had proposed. Rabbi Gafni also attacked the Prime Minister, who on Sunday (13 Kislev) asked the Supreme Court for an extension so that the law could be passed, while he now asked to totally remove the law form the Knesset table after learning that nearly 80 percent of the Knesset members support the law.

Rabbi Yaakov Litzman claimed that there is no reason to postpone the voting on the law, and said: "We'll repay the government in the same kind of coin at another time."

Rabbi Meir Porush said that UTJ is interested in an immediate vote. However he explained that when Barak asked to totally remove the law from the Knesset table, we had no choice but to agree to the postponement of the vote. Rabbi Porush sharply attacked the Meretz representatives saying: "When the coalition agreement was signed with Barak a year and a half ago, Sarid knew that it included the anchoring of the yeshiva draft deferments in law. Had they passed the law then, Sarid and Ran Cohen would certainly have both continued as Ministers. So don't behave so self-righteously here today."

Shas chairman Eli Yishai said: "One the eve of the elections, hypocrisy is triumphant." He explained that Shinui and Meretz who screamed and shouted simply did not understand what happened. "I also want the proposal to be brought to a vote. We have a majority. I sincerely hope that the Knesset will vote for the law as you demand," he told the Shinui and Meretz MKs.

Earlier, UTJ filed a motion with the High Court asking it to grant the Knesset a four month extension for legislation of the temporary order for the draft exemption of yeshiva students.

In their request of 9 Kislev, the petitioners reviewed the chain of events from the time the High Court issued its decision two years ago to the effect that the Defense Minister was acting illegally when he granted draft deferrals to yeshiva students. The High Court instructed the Knesset to enact a law governing these deferrals within a year.

Three requests for postponement of the deadline have since been filed during the past two years. In the most recent request, it was reported that the Knesset had set up a special committee for enactment of the law (from the Tal Committee). The committee presented the proposal, which passed its first reading in the Knesset, and was then returned to the committee for preparation for its second and third readings. The committee, headed by Salah Tarif, saw that the time which the High Court had allotted it was insufficient. It then separated part of the law and prepared a "temporary order" for a year, for presentation in the Knesset in an accelerated procedure that would have merely extended the current arrangements with legislative sanction.

The petitioners claim that after the Knesset voted for early elections, the committee chairman refused to continue procedures to obtain Knesset approval for the temporary order, claiming that he had lost his motivation, and linking the deferral law to the vote on the law to dissolve the Knesset. The committee chairman later agreed to present the proposal to the Knesset the following week after being approached by certain parties.

The petitioners are currently asking the High Court to grant an additional extension in order to enable them to complete legislative procedures, claiming that political factors caused the hold-up in the completion of the original law for final approval in its second and third readings. In the event that it becomes evident that the Knesset is procrastinating with respect to approval of the law, the petitioners will once again seek the intervention of the High Court, ordering the Knesset to complete approval of the law.

The Office of the Prime Minister relates that Prime Minister Barak has also decided to ask the Supreme Court for an additional three-month extension for completion of the Draft Deferral Law. Barak convened the upper echelons of the defense establishment to discuss the possible drafting of yeshiva students. Attending the meeting were the Chief of Staff, members of the IDF Manpower Department, the Prosecutor General and the representative of the Attorney General.


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