Experts weigh in on ‘Tal’ alternatives
Prof. Stern tells 'Post' that sanctions would be effective in significantly increasing numbers of haredi enlisting in army.
Haredi man overlooking IDF ceremony Photo: Marc Israel Sellem
The issue of personal responsibility and the efficacy of individual sanctions remained front and center in the struggle to formulate new legislation to draft haredi men into national service.
The idea of personal sanctions, including the cancellation of housing benefits, municipal tax breaks and similar welfare allowances, was strongly opposed by ultra- Orthodox political parties and was what led to the final dissolution of the Keshev Committee.
The final proposals that will be presented on Wednesday by committee chairman Yohanan Plesner.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post, Prof. Yedidia Stern of the Israel Democracy Institute, one of the non-political experts who sat on the committee, said he believed these kinds of sanctions would be effective in significantly increasing the numbers of haredi men enlisting in the army.
Stern said the committee had set as a target that within six years, two-thirds of the annual cohort of haredi men eligible for service would be drafted by the age of 23. Moreover, it deliberated a 20% maximum quota for exemptions for exceptional Torah scholars.
Stern added that in spite of the many public declarations by haredi political leaders, behind closed doors they express greater understanding of the necessity of enlistment.
He said the haredi leadership, especially within Shas, acknowledges that the rapidly increasing haredi population will not be able to sustain itself on state funds forever.
He also claimed that many haredi community members are increasingly willing to do some form of national service in order to be able to join the workforce. What is preventing them from doing so, he said, is the rabbinic leadership of the community, which still transmits the message that working instead of studying Torah is second best and will have social repercussions.
However, Kadima and the IDF draft reform campaign are insisting that cancellation of welfare benefits would not be sufficient to achieve mandatory service for all at age 18 within five years, and are insisting on tough penalties.
Shahar Ilan, deputy director of the religious freedom lobbying group Hiddush, agreed with Stern that benefits cancellation would be effective.
“Anyone who thinks that a haredi family can live with these kind of sanctions has no understanding of economics.”
“Even if there will be a struggle at the beginning with huge demonstrations and the like, within a few months anyone against whom these sanctions are imposed would quickly realize that they bankrupting themselves,” he said.
“The goal is that instead of the Torah world being dependent on not serving, it must instead be dependent on serving – and this is what the sanctions would achieve, because the Torah world cannot live without those benefits,” Ilan said, adding that national service had to be obligatory, or the establishment of targets for haredi enlistment would not be effective.