(photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that the criminal sanctions clause of the law for haredi conscription passed last year would be abolished in the coming Knesset term.
The prime minister’s comments generated severe criticism from several quarters, including the Yesh Atid party, which had initiated and ardently promoted the legislation, and which said that Netanyahu’s comments prove that all he cares about is political survival.
Netanyahu made the comments during a meeting at his official Jerusalem residence with journalists and editors from the haredi press.
According to the B’Hadrei Haredim
news website, “The prime minister declared that the criminal sanctions would be annulled,” and said: “I always said that I would not allow those who study Torah to sit in prison.
Netanyahu continued, saying: “The haredim are natural partners. I have great fondness for Jewish tradition.
We learn the weekly Torah portion every Shabbat in this house.”
Yesh Atid said in response that it would continue to fight for haredi conscription to the IDF in the coming Knesset term.
“Netanyahu proved again that the only thing he cares about is his political survival. This time it comes at the expense of IDF soldiers and the historic change to the injustice [of haredim not performing military service] which Yesh Atid made, in which all the sons and daughters of Israeli citizens will serve in the army and be equal.”
The criminal sanctions clause of the legislation imposes a possible two-year prison sentence on haredi men who refuse to serve in the IDF, the same punishment to which all other Jewish men are subject for dodging the draft.
The haredi political parties bitterly opposed the law, and it is likely that they will demand changes to the legislation as a price for entering a coalition after the elections.
The Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group, which strongly advocates for haredi military service but opposed criminal sanctions, said that it is glad Netanyahu voiced his opinion but that he and other party leaders need to detail not only what they would annul but what measures they would seek to enforce haredi enlistment.
“What law would they pass? What sanctions will there be? Will there be obligatory enlistment targets?” asked Hiddush director Rabbi Uri Regev.
Yahad chairman MK Eli Yishai also welcomed Netanyahu’s comments and said Yesh Atid’s law had brought about hatred and division within the nation and reduced haredi motivation to enlist.
As reported by The Jerusalem Post
, Yishai has explicitly opposed all forms of sanctions – criminal, economic or otherwise – on haredi men who refuse to serve in the army.