Agreement on ultra-Orthodox enlistment might be on the horizon

The leading rabbis are the ones who will decide on the enlistment law – and as long as they have not had their input there is no formal decision on the issue.

June 16, 2018 23:59
2 minute read.
A haredi soldier prays during a drill.

A haredi soldier prays during a drill. (photo credit: IDF Spokesman))


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Senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said the Degel Hatorah party’s MKs “all support” new proposed legislation for haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment, seemingly opening up a split with Agudat Yisrael, the other half of UTJ.

“With us, we all support the [IDF draft] law,” Ganfi told haredi news website B’Hadrei Haredim on Friday when asked about the bill proposed by a special Defense Ministry committee last week.

He added that Degel’s three MKs are waiting for leading haredi authority Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, 95, to finish the shiva mourning period for his son in order to speak with him on the issue and complete the round of consultations the MKs have conducted with other haredi rabbis, before a final decision is made.

Gafni’s office later backtracked somewhat, saying “the leading rabbis are the ones who will decide on the enlistment law – and as long as they have not had their input there is no formal decision on the issue.”

His comment is significant since it means ostensibly that the other leading rabbis who have been consulted agree to allow passage of the proposed bill, which includes deductions from the state-funded yeshiva budget if IDF enlistment targets from the haredi sector are not met.

The notion that there should be negative consequences if haredi men fail to enlist has been fiercely opposed by the sector’s leadership, and the fact that the leading rabbis would agree to this idea is somewhat surprising.

Several experts have noted, however, that the targets are not particularly high and the financial penalties for not meeting them not especially severe.

That being the case, it appears that Degel’s MKs and rabbis believe the law is the best of a bad situation, and are reluctant to go to war over the bill since such a fight could lead to the collapse of the coalition and act as a political boost for Yair Lapid, perceived as a veritable villain by the haredi leadership.

A Degel source told The Jerusalem Post earlier last week that the party did not view the proposed bill as completely objectionable, and that it may be allowed to pass, with changes made before final approval by the Knesset or even after the next elections.

On Thursday, Agudat Yisrael’s Council of Torah Sages – comprised of the grand rabbis of the hassidic groups that make up the party – issued a strong statement against the bill, saying if it passed in its current form they would tell their three MKs to quit the government.

They did seemingly leave room for negotiation, however, and Aguda sources said it was likely an extension to the September deadline set by the High Court of Justice for legislation would be requested in order to allow more time to haggle over the clauses of the Defense Ministry’s proposed bill.

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