Haredi politicians reacted with predictable outrage to the publication by MK Yohanan Plesner of his recommendations for the replacement of the Tal Law on Wednesday morning.
“There has never been such a pile of evil and maliciousness as this document,” said MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism). “Plesner’s personal position was [already] known to us, and his conclusions were known from the outset,” he added.
Plesner’s drafted the final recommendations himself but stated that they were based on the “hundreds of hours” of hearings and interviews his committee conducted, and the input of the IDF, the Finance Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and other government agencies.
The recommendations insist on the principle of obligatory national service for all and “personal responsibility” for its fulfillment.
Plesner said during the press conference called to unveil the final document that in order to implement this principle, the document recommends personal fines for those refusing to serve; the withdrawal of state benefits they may have been entitled to such as housing benefits and municipal tax breaks; and the cancellation of the monthly NIS 850 state paid subsidy granted to full time yeshiva students.
In addition, anyone refusing to serve would get a criminal record.
According to a report in Maariv, spiritual leader of Shas Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef told the party’s political leader Interior Minister Eli Yishai that the imposition of personal sanctions on yeshiva students would lead to Shas quitting the coalition.
UTJ Chiarman MK Yisrael Eichler warned that Israel could experience sectarian conflict similar to that of its neighbors if conscription is not ended and a professional army established in its stead.
“Anyone who wants to avoid turning Israel into Lebanon or Syria has to free all its citizens from the obligatory draft,” he said.
Eichler has consistently expressed opposition to conscription, and said that a professional army could be established in a gradual process, which would minimize extraneous expenses on “unnecessary soldiers” and in which haredim would be “happy to serve.”
However, renegade Shas MK, haredi rabbi and head of the Amsallem movement MK Haim Amsallem, expressed support for the document, labeling the current situation “a desecration of Gods name.”
During Plesner’s press conference, Amsallem noted that national service was a religious precept and a Torah commandment, although he noted that he had some reservations about the final recommendations.
“Torah is the air we breathe and is crucial for the continued existence of the Jewish people,” he said.
“But Torah does not oppose military service, if it is accommodating for a religious lifestyle, and does not oppose participation in the work force,” he said.