The new coalition agreements between Likud-Beytenu, Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi may result in sweeping changes on many fronts, ranging from the control of religious institutions to the very identity of the state.
Among the first orders of business for the new government is the passage of a new budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year and the enactment of a national service law that would replace the de facto blanket exemption ultra-Orthodox currently enjoy. In addition, the mandatory length of service in some units would be cut to two years for all draftees. (Currently Israeli men serve three years and women, two.) Both of these items must be submitted for a vote within 45 days.
The new mechanism, which will likely be tailored to incentivize Arab and haredi youth, would reward those who serve longer than they are required to. According to the agreed outline of the bill, each year 1,600 haredim would join combat units. Although haredim would be legally required to join the army at the age of 21, they would not be prosecuted for failing to do so. Rather, they would be denied financial benefits (such as National Insurance allowances) and be subject to certain restrictions. Another 1,800 yeshiva students would be eligible for a waiver due to their excellence in Torah studies. This unique status would allow them to enjoy continued subsidies throughout their yeshiva studies until the age of 26, and their tuition would be paid through a special scholarship.
The coalition partners also agreed to introduce new legislation aimed at increasing political stability. One of the proposed bills would raise the election threshold a party needs to qualify for Knesset representation to four percent of the vote. Currently, the legal threshold is 2%, which usually translates to two Knesset seats. Another measure would make a no-confidence vote result in the toppling of the government only if 65 MKs had endorsed another MK to replace the incumbent prime minister. The prime minister would also be granted the authority to dissolve the parliament. Any piece of legislation that has a price tag of 50 million shekels (about $13.6 million) or more would have to be passed by a majority of 61 votes. Furthermore, MKs who form a splinter group by defecting from their faction would not be entitled to any public funds. (In the last election cycle, several Kadima MKs formed a new faction, headed by ousted Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, and by law, they were entitled to some of Kadima’s public campaign funding.)
The coalition agreements also stipulate that the new housing and construction minister will revise the criteria for prospective homeowners in state-funded programs. The new rules will mandate that a couple that wishes to get subsidized housing will have to prove that at least one household member is working full time (with certain exceptions).
The main clauses of the Habayit Hayehudi coalition agreement (apart from the distribution of portfolios):
- The government will submit for a Knesset vote new legislation that would clearly define Israel as a Jewish state. The law would be called Basic Law: Israel as the Jewish People’s National Home. Basic Laws have certain provisions that can only be amended through a special majority, owing to the laws’ unique status as a de facto constitution.
- National religious institutions would see their status preserved by law through special funding and particular statutes.
- The Religious Services Ministry, apart from being run by Habayit Hayehudi, would include the state’s nationwide conversion apparatus, control of holy sites and the Chief Rabbinate (all of which are currently in the hands of the haredim).
The main clauses of the Yesh Atid coalition agreement (apart from the distribution of portfolios):
- Beyond his role as the finance minister, party chairman Yair Lapid will also head a ministerial committee tasked with promoting legislation regarding the equal distribution of social burden. According to the agreement, a bill to that effect would be presented to the government within 45 days – before it begins deliberating the state budgets.
- Lapid will also head a ministerial committee that will review the cost of housing in Israel.
- The Education Ministry, headed by Yesh Atid’s No. 2, Shai Piron, will present the government with its recommendations for the implementation of mandatory core studies across the entire school system, within six months. According to the coalition agreement, state funding for seminaries for students who are not Israeli citizens would be revoked.
- Yeshiva students will be eligible for mitigations in their national insurance payments for up to seven years.
- The government will pass a series of sustainable governability laws, including decreasing the number of ministers to 18, raising the election threshold to 4%, instating a special majority vote of 65 MKs for a no-confidence vote, and instating a legal extension that the government could use in the event it needs more time to formulate a state budget.
Read more at ISRAEL HAYOM.