Haredi protest in Jerusalem against draft.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A vote on a bill which would revoke state funding from extremist haredi yeshivas whose senior staff incite against IDF enlistment was postponed on Sunday due to opposition from United Torah Judaism Chairman and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.
The bill, proposed by Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer and three of his Knesset party colleagues, is designed to help tackle the extremism of the Jerusalem Faction, a radical haredi grouping that has caused mayhem and misery on the roads by blocking traffic in demonstrations against the arrest of draft-dodging yeshiva students.
Full-time yeshiva students are able to obtain military service exemptions if they study in a state recognized yeshiva. At the same time, those yeshivas receive state-funds for every yeshiva student which they use to pay them a monthly stipend.
Yeshivas and yeshiva deans associated with the Jerusalem Faction have however instructed their students not to present themselves at IDF enlistment offices to carry out the necessary bureaucratic procedures to obtain the exemption.
The Jerusalem Faction and its leader Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach falsely claim that since some haredi men are being coercively drafted into the army they refuse to cooperate in any way with the IDF.
There are currently 6,200 haredi soldiers serving right now in the IDF, including 390 officers and non-commissioned officers, all of whom have volunteered to serve.
Forer’s law, which is an amendment to the Budget Foundations Law, would revoke state recognition from any yeshiva who’s head publicly called on students to avoid IDF service, or who incited students to harass or be violent against IDF personnel, thereby rendering it ineligible to receive state funds.
In addition, any yeshiva where more than 10 percent of its students fail to report to the IDF enlistment offices to obtain their military service exemption.
The bill was scheduled for discussion and a possible vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation for passage to the Knesset on Sunday, but opposition from Litzman saw the debate postponed by two weeks.
According to an aide to Litzman, the minister insists that since the law is an amendment to the important Budget Foundations Law, it could have “broad implications in additional fields,” and that it therefore requires “a deep and fundamental debate for this sensitive and critical issue.”
The mainstream haredi community is thought to be increasingly opposed to the extremist antics of the Jerusalem Faction, and some haredi MKs have begun to speak out against the group.
United Torah Judaism, and Litzman in particular it would seem, are nevertheless going to be extremely cautious in any legislative attempts to defund the extremist group for fear that it could inadvertenly or indirectly have negative consequences for yeshivas and other institutions associaed with the mainstream haredi community.
Forer described his bill as “one of the most just pieces of legislation that has been submitted to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation,” and that Yisrael Beytenu would continue to work on advancing it.
“It’s unthinkable that someone who incites people to evade military service and supports harming IDF soldiers will benefit from state funds. I expect from MKs to reject these inciters and not to embrace them.”