Haredi IDF soldiers 370.
(photo credit: JEREMY SHARON)
The warm relations between Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi might be cooling, as the
latter pressed for significant changes in the haredi enlistment bill this
The Knesset’s Committee for Sharing the Burden, led by Bayit Yehudi
faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked, who is dealing with the enlistment bill
originally drafted by a ministerial committee led by Yesh Atid Science and
Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, is working to “fix bugs” in the legislation,
according to a Bayit Yehudi source.
Those “bugs,” however, are the points
most important to Yesh Atid: enlistment by age 21, exemptions for only 1,800
exceptional yeshiva students and criminal sanctions for draft-dodgers, as
mandated by the Peri bill.
The debate began when a Shaked Committee legal
adviser pointed to a lacuna in the Peri bill’s wording that would allow haredim
up to age 26 to meet enlistment target numbers, rather than only those up to age
This would lead to a lower number of haredim actually joining the
IDF, because the older they are, the more expensive they are for the army, which
pays more according to the number of children the soldier has. As such, the IDF
would likely reject many older haredi enlistees.
Shaked proposed to keep
the legislation as is. Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah, however, said it
“contradicts the meaning of the bill. What kind of equality is this?” "This
cannot be and it won’t work,” Shelah stated.
Brig.-Gen. Gadi Agmon, the
IDF representative at the meeting, said that keeping the lacuna in the bill goes
against agreements between the army and the Peri Committee.
is demanding other changes to the Peri bill as well. The party hopes to remove
the part of the current version mandating that four years after the law is voted
in, if haredim don’t reach enlistment target numbers, there will be criminal
sanctions against anyone meeting enlistment criteria who does not join the IDF
or national service – except for 1,800 outstanding Torah students.
Yehudi opposes criminal sanctions against haredim who do not enlist and seeks to
continue the system of target numbers, regardless of whether they are met or
A source close to Shaked explained that when there are target
numbers, rabbis in charge of haredi yeshivas will send the less-serious students
to the army.
As for criminal sanctions, “haredim won’t enlist if they
feel threatened; they’ll just say ‘try us,’” the source stated.
Bayit Yehudi source said the party has little problem breaking agreements with
Finance Minister Yair Lapid, the Yesh Atid leader, “has broken
understandings” with Bayit Yehudi’s leader, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali
Bennett. “I don’t know how much anyone in Bayit Yehudi cares about that at the
”Bayit Yehudi keeps trying to improve its relations with the
haredim,” a source close to Shelah complained.
“Keeping that article in
the bill empties it of content.”
The Yesh Atid source explained that if
enlistment target numbers applied to ages 18-26, only 5% of each age group would
serve, defeating the bill’s purpose. Still, she was confident that Yesh Atid has
majority support both in the coalition and in the Shaked Committee, and that the
legislation will remain as the party intended.
While the parties seem to
be at an impasse, both said talk of a coalition crisis is
According to the Yesh Atid source, Shaked and Shelah speak
daily and agree on the basic goals of the bill.
"We’re not interested
blowing things up. We want an outline that Yesh Atid and the haredim can agree
on. It’ll be tough, but that’s our goal,” the source close to Shaked
Earlier this month, Lapid told The Jerusalem Post that Bennett “is
an ally and a friend” and there would be no reason for their partnership to
"We disagree on the peace process, but he says as long as we haven’t
started evacuating settlements, he can stay in the coalition. We still talk
almost every day,” Lapid said.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.