Keshev Committee chairman Yohanan Plesner presented the panel’s muchawaited
recommendations on Wednesday – albeit in his own name only, due to the prime
minister’s decision to disband the panel earlier this week.
The Kadima MK
– who said he had based his recommendations on the discussions within the
committee, even though his was the only signature on the document – made his
presentation at a press conference in the Knesset, during which he said that
achieving a more equal share of the national service burden was the basis of
social justice and a vibrant society, and called on Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu directly to implement his proposals.
Nonetheless, he added that
there was room for compromise within the parameters of the recommendations,
saying that the document he was presenting was not sacrosanct.
the press conference, committee member Prof. Yedidia Stern, vice-president of
the Israel Democracy Institute, called Netanyahu’s decision to disband the
committee on Monday “a missed opportunity of historic proportions.”
committee arrived at a proposal designed to bring about the enlistment of a
large majority of the haredi [ultra-Orthodox] community within a period of five
years,” said Stern. “Just two days before the completion of our work, the prime
minister disbanded the committee because of pressure from extremist fringe
elements in the current coalition.”
Hiddush, a religious-freedom and IDF
draft reform lobby group, said that the proposals included “brave and necessary
steps” alongside “very problematic and unreasonable
“The fact that the prime minister was not even ready to
adopt this far-reaching compromise proves that he prefers the preservation of
his coalition with the haredi parties instead of the drafting of yeshiva
students,” Hiddush director Uri Regev said.
Among the most significant
recommendations in the report were the establishment of obligatory national
service for all as a principle, and enforcing “personal responsibility” for the
fulfillment of this principle, primarily through levying fines and financial
sanctions against individuals refusing to serve.
The haredi political
factions fiercely oppose the imposition of personal sanctions. This constitutes
one of the principal roadblocks to the prime minister’s ability to reach a
compromise with Kadima, which has insisted on the necessity of such
In his recommendations, Plesner proposed that a fulltime
yeshiva student be able to defer national service until age 22, at which point
he would be required to declare whether he intended to serve or to accept the
consequences of refusing. If he agreed to serve, he would enter national service
by age 23.
Hiddush was extremely critical of this proposal, primarily
because many haredi men are married with children by this age. Since anyone
enlisting in the army is entitled to significantly increased stipends if they
have a family, drafting men at this age would be an expensive undertaking for
the IDF and make the army less inclined to accept such
According to the recommendations, someone who deferred his
service until age 22 would still be entitled to monthly stipends from the state.
Meanwhile, the government would conduct bi-annual inspections of yeshivot. If a
student were absent for two consecutive inspections, he would be subject to a
NIS 50,000 fine, a retraction of his right to defer service, and an order to
If a student refuses to serve at age 22, Plesner’s
recommendations stipulate an automatic NIS 7,500 fine, and an additional NIS 75
fine for every day he refuses to present himself for national service.
would also incur a criminal record and a retraction of his status as a yeshiva
student for the purposes of national insurance discounts, municipal tax
discounts and state housing benefits.
Plesner also recommended that 1,500
yeshiva students, selected by the yeshivot from each annual intake of men
reaching military age, receive the status of “dedicated” students who are
permanently exempt from all service.
In addition, the report set targets
for haredi enlistment in either military or civilian service at 6,000 recruits
by 2016, with an increase of 400 a year to keep pace with the rate of population
growth in the haredi sector.
The recommendations also stipulated the
establishment of an effective inspection system for yeshiva institutions, which
the Defense Ministry would carry out in cooperation with the Education
The document proposed that if a student were absent from
yeshiva for two consecutive inspections, in addition to the sanctions on the
student, the yeshiva would be fined the amount it received in state support for
According to the proposals, if a yeshiva has two consecutive
inspections in which 25 percent or more of students are missing, the institute
will lose its status as a Defense Ministry-recognized institution and be closed
Regarding the Arab sector, Plesner recommended establishing
in law the obligation of service for all, including Arab citizens. He set a 2012
starting target of 2,400 for Arab enlistment, with an increase of 600 every year
to reach 6,000 by 2017-18. The report also proposed that a professional team
enter into dialogue with leaders in the Arab community and present conclusions
within six months on the application of mandatory civilian service in the Arab
sector; on the possibility of increasing incentives for Arab citizens to enter
civilian service; and on the prospect of imposing sanctions on heads of
authorities working actively to discourage civilian enlistment.