A government proposal to allow 1,300 haredi yeshiva students to enlist in the
civilian service program instead of serving in the military was approved on
Sunday but was greeted with widespread outrage from IDF draft reform
The decision was enacted in order to stymie the fall-off in
numbers of recruits serving in the civilian service program following the
expiration of the “Tal Law” this past August.
The number of active
civilian service personnel currently stands at 1,450, down from 2,026 before the
The Tal Law created a legal framework for full-time yeshiva
students to indefinitely defer military service, but also established the
civilian service program for haredi recruits in order to provide part of the
solution to the low rate of ultra-Orthodox participation in national service
programs. The expiration of the law means that yeshiva students can no longer
legally defer their military service and enlist in civilian service
Because inductees joined the program at the beginning of every
month, instead of an annual or biannual basis, dozens of serving recruits also
complete their service every month and leave the program.
the Civilian Service Directorate, dozens of haredi men who have applied to the
program since August have been turned away each month because of the recruitment
Sunday’s decision allows recruitment to recommence, although the directorate will not be allowed to
exceed the number of recruits who were serving on July 31.
The figure of
1,300 new recruits is an approximation by the directorate of the amount of new
manpower it will require to replace those who will complete their service from
the period of August 1, 2012 to August 31, 2013.
The new temporary
framework extends until August 31, 2013, or until new legislation regulating
military service for the ultra-Orthodox is passed by the Knesset.
decision enables the defense minister to grant a complete military draft
exemption for full-time yeshiva students who volunteer for the civilian service
and were receiving a military service exemption through the Tal Law framework.
They also must be 26 and over; or 22 and over and either have one child or have
applied for the national security track of the civilian service program that
includes service in the police, ambulance and fire services.
from the Prime Minister’s Office said the decision was made to safeguard the
continued existence of the civilian service program by keeping enlistment
flowing and to preserve the trust of the haredi community and leadership in the
program and its administrators.
Science and Technology Minister Daniel
Herschkowitz, who has ministerial oversight for the civilian service, praised
the decision and said it was in the national interest to allow haredi men who
want to contribute to the state to sign up for the program.
“It is absurd
that the expiration of the Tal Law prevented the continued absorption of haredi
men [into the civilian service], forcing us to turn away many people who
applied,” Herschkowitz said.
“It’s unthinkable to halt the momentum that
we have succeeded in building through much hard work in changing the opinion of
the community on the haredi street,” he added.
Sar-Shalom Gerbi, director
of the Civil and National Service Administration, also welcomed the decision,
calling it a positive step and emphasizing that the program would be a central
part of any future arrangement dealing with haredi national service.
the decision sparked furious denunciations from IDF draft reform advocates, who
accused the government of encouraging haredi draft evasion.
lambasted the decision as “immoral and outrageous.”
“That Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu’s government intends to circumvent the [High Court of Justice
ruling] and continue perpetuating this historic injustice is outrageous, immoral
and does not stand the test of the High Court,” Livni said.
Human Resources Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Elazar Stern, who recently joined The Tzipi
Livni Party, said the Netanyahu government was destroying any possibility of
resolving the issue via an agreement.
“Many officials in the haredi
community were willing to make compromises... but the end result is that on the
eve of elections, the government has demonstrated its true priorities,” Stern
Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett said the government must
stop buying time and find a solution to the issue of equality in the burden of
Meanwhile, Yesh Atid announced on Sunday night that it
would file a petition with the High Court of Justice to block Netanyahu’s
temporary resolution of the post-Tal Law controversy.
Aiming to signal
that it takes the issue more seriously than other parties that officially take
the same stance, party leader Yair Lapid said that, “we will make sure that this
is the last time that the extortionist machine will bend the rule of law in
Lapid also spoke directly to Defense Minister Ehud Barak,
demanding and pleading with him not to carry out the new policy.
advised Barak that he “had a chance to resign with his head held
Moreover, Lapid said the government’s plans to continue
authorizing the exemption of haredim from IDF service under the guise of
slightly increasing the number of ultra-Orthodox doing civilian service is going
against the court and “throwing sand in the eyes of the public.”
added that Yesh Atid would not sit in a government that would not ensure that
every citizen does service and is fully integrated into the labor
The Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group called the decision
“a deplorable necessity.”
“The continued existence of the civilian
service with the conscription of full-time yeshiva students is an important and
positive process,” said Hiddush deputy director Shahar Ilan.
“But when it
exists as a replacement for conducting obligatory conscription it ridicules the
notion of an equal share in the burden of national service,” he
“The decision only highlights the government’s refusal to
fulfill its legal obligations to draft yeshiva students.”
Shas MK Nissim
Ze’ev said “the criticism that has been leveled at the government today on this
issue is bizarre and hypocritical.”
“It is also completely political and
in no way seeks to deal with the actual issues at hand,” he said. “The
government is acting in the correct way by gradually broadening the Nahal Haredi
battalion, the Shahar Kahol program [which places haredim in hitech positions]
and the civilian service for haredim.
“This problem has to be solved
gradually and with agreement. This decision will see a good number of haredim
taking up public service and yet its still criticized. Many of the yeshiva
students are not physically or personally fit for the army and the army doesn’t
want them either,” Ze’ev claimed.
The Camp Sucker movement in favor of
reforming the draft announced Sunday that it would set up its trademark tent
outside Arlozorov Station in Tel Aviv in response to the
According to the Civilian Service Directorate’s statistics,
close to 4,000 haredim have completed or are currently serving in civilian
service programs, in the fields of welfare, public security, public health,
immigration absorption and environmental protection.
The directorate says
that 85 percent of graduates of the program have subsequently integrated into
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.