Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that the standard processes to draft recruits have been initiated among haredi youth aged 16-19 over the past few weeks.

Speaking at a hearing of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Barak said that although the procedures targeted at haredi teens are ongoing and increasing, he is refraining from drafting current yeshiva students until after the elections. This includes those who have until now been receiving military service deferrals, despite the current lack of any legal framework for them to avoid national service following the expiration of the Tal Law in August.

The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee hearing was called to update the Knesset on the efforts being made by the defense minister to institute a temporary solution to the problem.

The expiration of the Tal Law means that the 1986 Defense Service Law, requiring the state to draft all 18-yearold Jewish males, is now operative.

There are currently 55,000 yeshiva students of military age who were legally receiving military-service deferrals until August 1, but who have still not been drafted.

“Because we’re now in election season, and in order to facilitate dialogue, I have refrained from setting in stone [directives] regarding those in the interim age bracket [of 20-28 who were receiving a military service deferral through the Tal Law],” Barak said.

He added that the best permanent solution for those currently aged 20-28 is to allow them to either volunteer for national service or receive a complete exemption in order to enter the labor force.

But draft reform advocates and religious- freedom lobbying group Hiddush described the plan outlined by Barak as an effort to deceive the High Court of Justice, which struck down the Tal Law in February.

“This plan is an exercise in mass deception, designed only to mislead the High Court and the public into thinking that progress is being made,” said Hiddush deputy director Shahar Ilan.

Although the initial draft letters are now being sent out to haredi teens, it is almost certain that those whose enlistment date is imminent will be not drafted within the next 12 months.

Today’s announcement was merely a delaying tactic to allow for the elections to take place and new legislation to be passed afterwards exempting the haredi yeshiva students once again, Ilan claimed.

“If the army wanted to it could draft as many as 2,000 haredi recruits in the next few months. All that is happening now is ‘fantasy progress,’” he added, designed to avoid any legal consequences.

Barak said that as part of his temporary plan to prepare for the enlistment of haredi yeshiva students, existing army tracks dedicated to ultra-Orthodox recruits would be expanded such as the Netzach Yehuda combat battalion, and the Shahar program which places haredim into hi-tech units.

MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), who led efforts to draft haredi yeshiva students into national service, said during the hearing that as long as no new legislation is passed, the army is obligated to draft tens of thousands of yeshiva students whose service has been deferred until now.

He also said that the coming elections would be a referendum on the issue of army enlistment and equality in the burden of military service.

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