Haredi IDF soldiers Tal Law 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout .)
The government formally announced on Sunday the establishment and membership of
the committee that will form legislation to increase haredi enlistment in
national service programs.
The committee will be headed by Science and
Technology Minister Yaakov Peri of Yesh Atid and will be required to produce
draft legislation within 49 days of the swearing-in of the new government, which
took place on March 18.
This gives the committee until May 6 to devise
new legislation. It will convene for the first time in the coming days, a
spokesman for Peri said.
Accompanying Peri, a former Shin Bet (Israel
Security Agency) director, on the panel will be Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon
and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, both of Likud Beytenu;
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel of Bayit Yehudi; and Environmental
Protection Minister Amir Peretz of Hatnua – representing all four coalition
parties and Likud Beytenu, which formed a joint list before the general election
Peri said at the cabinet meeting that the short time period
for drafting the legislation would require a serious effort from both the
committee members and the relevant government ministries in order to get the
“The task which stands before us is to create a situation
in which the value of service in the Israel Defense Forces and the civilian
service, and the value of work, are supreme values which will be placed within a
framework of checks and balances alongside the value of Torah study, in order to
create true equality in the share of the burden of national service,” said
The coalition agreement between Yesh Atid and Likud Beytenu
stipulates that the legislation will provide national service exemptions for
only 1,800 haredi yeshiva students above the age of 21 per year, in contrast to
former arrangements where anyone wanting to study full time in yeshiva could do
Some 7,000 ultra-Orthodox men turn 18 every year and there are
currently around 45,000 full-time haredi yeshiva students.
the terms of the agreement, anyone refusing to serve without an exemption will
be subject to personal economic sanctions, although these were not defined in
the coalition deal, while yeshivot with high percentages of students who refuse
to serve will also have financial penalties levied against them.
haredi leadership is currently holding its fire on the enlistment issue but this
may change when details of the bill begin to emerge.
members are seen by the haredi world as relatively moderate on the issue of
enlistment, and the fact that the full terms of the legislation will only be
implemented in four years is also something that has calmed nerves in the
According to haredi journalist Yisroel Cohen who writes for
the Kikar Hashabbat news site, it will be the severity of financial sanctions
against individuals that will determine the degree to which the haredi spiritual
leadership will oppose the legislation.
If the financial sanctions are
severe enough to have a significant impact on the financial viability of the
average haredi household, then the law will to all intents and purposes be as
coercive as if it were to stipulate that draft evasion would be punishable by
imprisonment, said Cohen.
The legislation will go into effect in
In the interim, the state will set increasing enlistment targets
for haredi men aged 18-21 for both IDF and civilian service, starting at 3,300
in 2013 and rising to 5,600 by 2016. Anyone 22 and over will be given a
permanent exemption if they request one.
Peri’s spokesman was optimistic
that legislation could be agreed upon without undue disagreement since the two
most contentious issues, the principle of personal economic sanctions and the
maximum age of enlistment, set at 21, have already been established in the
The Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group
criticized the four-year implementation period, saying it was postponing the
problem for the next government.
“This plan will ensure that in another
four years implementing the law will be significantly harder and the historic
opportunity which was created with the establishment of this government will be
lost,” said Hiddush director and Reform Rabbi Uri Regev.
chairwoman Zehava Gal-On criticized the composition of the committee for not
including any women.
“How unsurprising is it that there are no women on
the committee appointed by the government to examine ‘equality in the burden,’”
said Gal-On in a statement to the media.