Likud Beytenu to ‘soften’ haredi enlistment

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon says a number of party colleagues will insist that Arab enlistment also be addressed.

May 31, 2013 01:25
4 minute read.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon of Likud

MK Danny Danon 311. (photo credit: Courtesy: Knesset)

Likud Beytenu MKs will fight to moderate the haredi draft bill when it reaches the Knesset, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said on Thursday.

MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), meanwhile, expressed confidence the legislation will pass easily.

Ministries have 21 days to review and comment on recommendations presented by the Peri Committee on Wednesday before they are brought to a special joint committee led by Shaked, consisting of the members of the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee and other lawmakers, to prepare the legislation for its first reading in the plenum.

Unlike the Peri Committee, which prepared the bill, the Knesset committee will include opposition MKs. Shaked expressed hope that legislators from haredi parties will participate in the discussions.

“The committee will review every article of the bill,” she said. “I don’t expect any farreaching changes, since it’s based on the coalition agreements with Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi.”

According to Danon, Likud Beytenu is likely to push for changes in two areas that were points of dispute between the party and Yesh Atid in the Peri Committee: criminal sanctions against haredim who dodge the draft and enlisting Arabs in civilian service.

The Peri Committee’s bill proposes a target of 6,000 Arab recruits a year for the civilian service program, five years from the enactment of the law.

Currently, approximately 2,000 Israeli Arabs enlist to civilian service every year.

Many Likud Beytenu MKs are pushing for universal enlistment in civilian service for Arab 18-year-old men.

“The issue of Israeli Arabs isn’t over yet, and it’s very important,” Danon said. “This isn’t a matter that bothers a few lone MKs – it’s the vast majority [in Likud Beytenu]. [Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman] insists on it, too.”

According to Danon, Yesh Atid prefers to deal with haredi enlistment first, and says that Arab enlistment is an unconnected issue.

Shaked made similar comments, saying she does not think haredi and Arab enlistment should be linked.

“If we tie the two, we’ll never get anywhere,” she said.

“We say Arab enlistment has to be legislated now, and that does not mean we want to push off the haredi draft. The opposite is true,” the deputy defense minister said.

To illustrate his point, Danon posted a photo of MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) on Facebook, emblazoned with the message: “What have you done for this country?” “Israeli Arabs have to help carry the burden through civilian service,” the Facebook post reads. “The Peri Committee calls for criminal sanctions on haredim who don’t serve.

What about Arabs? It cannot be that a whole public carries a blue identity card [as Israeli citizens], votes for the Knesset and does not contribute to the country!” Danon also expects Likud Beytenu MKs to work to “soften the wording” of the Peri Committee’s recommendations on criminal sanctions on haredim who refuse to serve, to represent the “middle ground” on the issue.

“Yesh Atid wanted a coalition crisis, and this week, they succeeded,” Danon said, explaining why Likud Beytenu compromised on the matter in the Peri Committee.

“Yesh Atid wants conflict with the haredim, and we want dialogue with them,” he added. “Their style could make it harder to reach goal numbers [of haredim in the IDF].”

According to Shaked, the Peri Committee decided on criminal sanctions because it could not find another option its legal advisers would approve.

She pointed out, however, that the coalition agreements only mention financial sanctions.

“We’ll examine the matter and see what we can change,” Shaked said.

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the Peri Committee’s position allows him discretion as to how to handle individuals or groups who do not enlist.

At the same time, the Peri recommendations say that criminal sanctions will be levied on draft-dodgers, with the exception of 1,800 outstanding haredi yeshiva students from each year’s intake, starting in four years’ time.

Another issue in the Peri bill is the length of hesder yeshiva students’ IDF service. The Peri Committee extended the time the national-religious yeshiva students serve from 16 to 17 months.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party took issue, however, with the fact that haredi soldiers will have to serve three years, but not hesder soldiers.

On Monday, Livni said the bill would not bring equality, and her party “won’t accept a group serving only 17 months because it has strong enough representation in the government.”

Shaked said, however, that hesder yeshiva students contribute far more than the average soldier.

“Hesder yeshiva students successfully combine Torah study and military service: 80 percent of them are combat soldiers, they all do reserve duty, and many of them settle in the periphery, in towns like Yeroham [in the South] and Ma’alot [in the North],” she said. “Plus, we see a value in Torah study.”

At the same time, Shaked admitted that these details do not preclude hesder students from serving for three years.

“We need to look into it,” she said.

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