Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein approved a proposed law on Tuesday to
integrate haredim into the IDF and national service.
During the final
meeting of the Peri Committee, which drafted the bill, Weinstein said the
legislation was legal and that the legislative process could move
But the decision to authorize the bill elicited harsh criticism
once again from independent observers, with the Hiddush religious-freedom lobby
group deriding the legislation as “a missed opportunity of historic
The bill will now go to the cabinet for approval on Sunday
and will then be put to a vote immediately in the Ministerial Committee for
Once approved, the bill will go to the Knesset to complete
the legislative process.
The Peri Committee convened on Tuesday for a
final session to consider recommendations and possible amendments that
government departments had made to the bill during the last three weeks, as well
as to receive the attorney-general’s feedback.
In prior statements,
Weinstein had appeared unsure of the legality of the bill, implying that while
the proposed law was designed to “equalize the burden” of military service for all citizens,
it might, at the same time, be anchoring new inequalities in
Speaking at the committee hearing, however, he said that he was
“impressed by the committee’s endeavors in representing the values of equal
While he noted that the “equality” the bill advanced was not
“complete or perfect,” he said it “could be defended in front of the High Court
One of the main issues on which he focused was the clause
within the bill that would allow haredim to defer their military service for a
few years, as most Israelis do not have such a right.
Weinstein said this
was a problem, but that ultimately it was legal because the purpose was to
create greater equality in military service and because the special rights were
for a very limited and defined class of persons due to the group’s particular
characteristics and needs.
Under the provisions of the bill, mandatory
haredi enlistment would not be fully implemented until 2017, at which time all
haredi men would be obligated to enlist, with a possible deferral until age 21.
Refusal to serve could result in imprisonment.
Haredi men’s ability to
defer service until this age is critical, since the rabbinic leadership of the
ultra-Orthodox community views the late teens and early 20s as a critical period
in which a man’s haredi identification is secured.
A later age of
enlistment is problematic, however, since many haredi men are already married
with children by age 21 or 22 , which increases the cost to the IDF, in terms of
salary and welfare stipends, of drafting such soldiers.
announcement of Weinstein’s approval, Hiddush director and Reform Rabbi Uri
Regev panned the bill, saying, “It’s hard to decide which aspect of the document
is the worst: the decision to delay mandatory service by four years until the
term of a new government; the baseless expectation that it will be possible to
enforce enlistment through imprisonment; or the willingness to allow yeshiva
students to enlist only at the age of 21, when most of them are already married
The Forum for Equality in the Burden of National Service
called the bill “a farce” and expressed hope that the High Court would strike it
“It’s amazing to see elected officials in cooperation with senior
public servants do everything in order to avoid any chance of drafting haredim
and achieving equality in the burden of national service,” the organization said
in a statement to the press.
Along with the issue of haredi enlistment,
Weinstein also addressed the hesder program, in which national-religious youth
combine 16 months of IDF service with three years of yeshiva study. He said that
although the proposed law raised the military service component of this course
by just one month, he would avoid ruling on the issue at this time.
implied that the hesder arrangement seemed to favor one particular group,
nationalreligious soldiers, over the rest of the population, which is required
to perform a full three years of military service. However, he said that since
the implementation of the new proposed law was not supposed to be complete until
2017, it was better to avoid deciding the issue until then.
increasing women’s IDF service from 24 to 28 months, Weinstein also said he
would delay a decision on the matter. He said he needed more information to
decide whether he was comparing the length of women’s service to that of men’s,
or to that of the special groups – hesder students and haredim.
were comparing women’s service to men’s, there would likely be no equality
issue, since men would still serve longer than the new 28 months. But the
equality problem could be more serious if women’s service were compared to the
“privileged” service of hesder students and haredim, who perform shorter service
or are eligible for significant delays in being drafted.