Knesset passes Charedi draft law

Military police officer and Charedi man near the Wailing Wall (Photo: Alan Kotok)

Military police officer and Charedi man near the Wailing Wall (Photo: Alan Kotok)

A contentious new law that will criminalise strictly Orthodox yeshivah students who evade Israeli army service was passed by Knesset this morning.

The so-called "Draft Law" was approved by 65 to 1, with a Jewish Home MK casting the only "no" vote. Most of those who opposed the law simply boycotted the vote.

The groundbreaking legislation lays out a three-year transitional period during which the number of young Charedim enlisted will be steadily increased until 2017, by which time the target will be to have 5,200 new strictly-Orthodox recruits in the army.

Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun, who is not himself Charedi, said: "I oppose the Draft Law. It is ill-conceived, and comes at the peak of a wave of anti-religious legislation that seeks to dilute the Jewish character of the state of Israel."

Another highly controversial piece of legislation, the "Governance Law", passed in the Knesset by an overwhelming margin of 67-0 yesterday, with many parties again deciding on an outright boycott.

The law will increase the electoral threshold for parties entering the Knesset, with some commentators predicting that it will have a negative effect on Arab parties, who may face exclusion.

The speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, has said he could even cancel British Prime Minister David Cameron's planned address to the Israeli parliament scheduled for today. There are concerns that there could be a mass walkout of MKs during the speeches by Prime Minister Netanyahu or Mr Cameron in protest against the Governance Law.

Last updated: 3:19pm, March 13 2014