(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
As the High Court of Justice is due to consider the Knesset’s November change in expectations for haredi IDF service, an NGO on Sunday attacked one of the state’s key defenses of the switch as nonsensical.
The November law pushed back targets for integrating haredim (ultra-Orthodox) – originally set for 2017 – to 2020 and beyond. It also essentially eliminated criminal sanctions for draft-dodging haredim by giving the defense minister nearly unlimited discretion to exempt haredim from meeting the draft targets.
When previously defending the change, the state said giving more time to make the big push to integrate haredim was needed not only pragmatically, but also to direct more of the haredim who join the IDF into combat units.
The NGO, the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel, filed a legal brief with the High Court on Sunday indicating that “extraneous considerations,” such as coalition politics to satisfy the haredi political parties, were the reason for the changes, and nothing else.
Further, the Movement said that it was blatantly counter-intuitive to pass a law which “is discriminatory” at its core – as it exempts more haredim than other populations from IDF service – in order to get more of them to serve in combat units.
Next, the NGO wrote that even the 2013 Law to Equalize the Burden of military service between haredim and the rest of the nation, which set 2017 as a deadline for high-participation rates and pledged criminal sanctions for noncompliance, had been discriminatory.
The main arguments against the 2013 law were that it still allowed a sizable, though minority, percentage of haredi exemptions which no other group receives, as well as it permit routine delays in complying with draft notices for haredim ages 18 to 21.
The haredi political parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas, had set eviscerating the 2013 law as a threshold issue for joining the current government.
If the 2013 law was unequal, then according to the NGO, the November law is “deepening the absence of equality and discrimination, including exacerbating the problems which were part of [the 2013 law].”
The 2013 law itself was a response to the High Court’s 2012 decision that struck down the “Tal Law” as unconstitutional.
Many observers view the November 2015 law as a return to the principles of the “Tal Law.”
The High Court is due to hear oral argument on the issue on April 17.