haredi soldiers kotel 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The activist organization Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality
petitioned the High Court of Justice on Wednesday, asking the justices to cancel
a cabinet decision making it easier for haredi men to avoid compulsory service
in the army.
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The cabinet decision was also the subject of another
petition filed a week earlier by the Movement for Quality Government.
cabinet approved the decision on July 16. However, the proposal to make it
easier for haredim to avoid the draft was buried among more than 100 other
proposals included a document laying down the government’s policy for the 2011-
2012 state budget, which is soon to be brought to a vote before the Knesset
plenum in first reading. The document is titled “Economic Policy for
The cabinet did not discuss or vote on each proposal
separately. The Treasury presented the document to the ministers on July 6 and
they voted for the proposals en bloc the following week.
took issue with the provision that stated, “The minister of defense is
instructed to approve the request of anyone, regardless of his marital status,
who is subject to perform security service to [instead] carry out public
service, as long as he is 22 years old and has had a draft deferment for at
least four years.
“The provision will come into effect on September 1,
The petitioners charged that the cabinet decision violated the Tal
Law, which deals with haredi military service and provides options for those who
have studied at least four years in a yeshiva.
One of the options offered
by the law is to spend a year in public service, after which the draft-age
haredi man will no longer be liable for compulsory military service and may
enter the work force without fear of being drafted. Before the Tal Law, anyone
who left the yeshiva during his draftage years could be
However, there is a key difference between the cabinet
decision and the Tal Law on this matter.
As opposed to last month’s
cabinet decision, the Tal Law, which has not been amended and is still binding,
states that the minister of defense must approve any request to perform public
service by a draft-age haredi.
The cabinet decision removes the right of
decision from the minister of defense and grants it unconditionally to the
haredi man himself.
The petitioners also said the cabinet decision
violated the Basic Law: Freedom and Equality as well as a 1998 High Court ruling
that determined that the arrangement whereby draftage haredi men could be
exempted from military service had to be based on laws rather than secondary
Although the two petitions raised similar arguments, Hiddush
stressed the alleged illegality in the way the cabinet decision was
“We believe it is absolutely clear that no public authority with
legal powers may apply them in the way that the cabinet approved the decision,”
wrote attorney Yehoshua Schoffman, a former deputy attorney-general, who
“A decision-making procedure such as this is
inconceivable, that is, one in which a public authority gathers dozens of
different and diverse issues that the law has authorized it to deal with and
instead of examining each issue individually, decides on the entire package en
The Movement for Quality Government stressed the fact that the
cabinet decision contradicted an existing law, and said that the law was not a
The minister of defense actually did use his discretionary
powers to decide which haredi applicant should serve in the army and which could
substitute public service for army service, wrote attorneys Eliad Shraga, Tzroya
Meidad- Luzon and Dafna Kiro- Cohen. The law had insisted on this to emphasize
that military service was more important than public service and that the
defense minister, who knew the army’s needs, should be able to determine whether
some of the applicants were particularly needed by the army to fill its needs,
Not only that, but although the law permits the minister of
defense to consider allowing draft-age haredi men to perform public service from
the age of 22, the defense minister until now has only allowed those between the
ages of 22-26 who are married and have at least one child to do so. He only
began to consider the requests of single haredi men from the age of
The cabinet decision allows any draft-age haredi man 22 years of age
and older to choose public service, whether he is married or not.