Yesh Atid filed a petition with the High Court of Justice on Monday to block
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision on Sunday to exempt 1,300 haredim
from military service in favor of national service.
Lapid and eight other
members on his list for the Knesset personally filed the petition and spoke out
on the issue from the courthouse.
The Yesh Atid Party leader said the
government’s releasing of haredim from military service “was a disgraceful
decision made for political reasons and with contempt” for the High Court’s
decision nullifying the Tal Law, which allowed haredi men to evade service, four
Lapid added, “It cannot be that the State of Israel
distinguishes between blood [of haredim] and blood [of others].”
he said there must be “equal service for all.”
“With the assistance of
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the haredi parties took advantage of this
moment before the election, to express contempt for the rule of law, contempt
for secular and religious [non-haredi] sectors of society and contempt for the
IDF,” said Lapid.
According to Lapid, the government’s decision is a
“blatant mockery of an express decision of the High Court, and we cannot allow
this decision to pass.”
He also slammed the Labor Party, stating, “I do
not understand why I stand here alone on the steps of the court and why there is
not by my side the leader of the Labor Party [Shelly Yacimovich] as a partner in
Lapid concluded: “We are here to commit that we will not sit in a government that does not accept this
principle” and that “this is one of our five commitments and part of our
contract with the State of Israel.”
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post,
Boaz Nul, one of the leaders of the draft reform campaign and a candidate for
Knesset for the Tzipi Livni Party, conceded that the civilian service request
for new manpower was understandable, but that the decision was problematic from
a legal perspective.
The Camp Sucker movement which Nul leads pitched its
tents once again at Tel Aviv’s Central Train Station on Monday in
Nul described the decision as an attempt to placate the Shas
Party on the issue of haredi enlistment ahead of the elections, and called on
Netanyahu to declare publicly the terms of new legislation he intends to propose
to replace the Tal Law.
Director of the Civilian Service Sar-Shalom Gerbi
told the Post that the petition against the government decision was
“The civilian service will be part of any future arrangement
for haredi enlistment, so it’s hard to see what the fuss is about,” Gerbi said.
“Eighty-five percent of graduates from the program have integrated into the work
force, so in that regard it is very successful and needs to be
Gerbi argued that the trust built up between the civilian
service directorate and the rabbinate of the haredi community was at risk if
continued recruitment was not permitted.
He pointed to comments made on
Monday in haredi newspaper Yated Ne’eman by the most senior haredi rabbi in the
country, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, calling on yeshiva students not to enlist
for civilian service as evidence of the danger the program faces.
Kish, a former leader of the Camp Sucker movement and head of the Likud Panel
for Equality in the Burden of Military Service, said the criticism of the
government was political in nature and unjustified since it was only intended as
a temporary solution to the civilian service’s inability to draft new recruits
following the expiration of the Tal Law.
The petition itself begins by
recounting the famous Talmudic dictum that “All of Israel is responsible for one
another.” It then satirically interprets the passage into Yesh Atid’s view of
the context that the “haredim send the secular to die in their place and the
secular send the haredim to learn Torah in their place.”
calls the government’s decision an attempt at an end-run around the court’s
February decision striking the Tal Law as of August, and blocking further
military service exemptions for haredim by the defense minister without Knesset
It also accused the government of acting out of political
considerations to maintain the loyalty of haredi parties in the governing
Yesh Atid said in the petition that the only difference
between haredi Torah studies and secular academic studies was that haredim
studied in yeshivot and the secular in universities, and that in that light,
there was no reason haredim should get special privileges.
attacked what it said was faulty reasoning, in which the government claimed the
authority to fashion the new policy in light of its residual authority, since
the Knesset had failed to act.
In contrast, the petitioners said there is
no case where residual authority allows the state to carry out policies which
are explicitly against a prior ruling of the court simply because the Knesset
has not acted.
The petition cites a dissenting opinion from 2002 when the
majority of the court initially upheld the Tal Law, as a prophetical declaration
of the problems with the law which would eventually demand its
Joining Yesh Atid in its petition was Maj. Yehuda Ressler
(res.), a lawyer who the petition said has been fighting the exemption of
haredim from military and national service since the early 1970s, including
involvement in seven prior petitions to the court. He also filed a petition the
day after the Tal Law was passed in 2002.
Finally, the petition said the
reason for the timing of the decision was that the government wanted to avoid
hearing Ressler’s previously filed petition, which is due to be heard on
December 15, to compel the state to do a mass draft of young haredim.
Movement for Quality Government (MQG) in Israel, an NGO, also filed a petition
against the government decision, calling on the High Court to grant a temporary
injunction freezing the defense minister’s ability to grant the 1,300 exemptions
from military service.
The organization argued that the government and
the defense minister were providing exemptions despite the fact that the High
Court has demanded that the government explain why it has not drafted the
approximately 40,000 yeshiva students who were receiving military deferrals
under the now expired Tal Law, in accordance with an MQG petition from July.