Haredi protest in Jerusalem against draft.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Finalization of the haredi enlistment bill currently being advanced through the Knesset will begin this week, said Likud MK David Amsalem on Thursday during a hearing of the special committee he chairs to prepare the legislation for its final readings before being passed into law.
Despite his comments, agreement on the final terms of the bill by Agudat Yisrael, the hassidic half of the United Torah Judaism faction, has yet to be reached, although the party’s rabbinic leadership did indicate a softening of their stance in a meeting last month.
“I intend to convene the committee next week for conclusions and drafting the clauses of the law,” Amsalem said during the hearing.
Committee members discussed in particular the clauses relating to financial penalties against the general state-funded yeshiva budget should enlistment targets for the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector not be met.
The enlistment bill stipulates annual enlistment targets which increase every year for ten years, and financial penalties in the form of steadily increasing reductions to the budget for haredi yeshivas should those targets not be met.
If the targets are not met for three years in a row, the law will be voided and obligatory enlistment would be incumbent on all haredi men.
However, the financial sanctions will not take effect in the first two years of the law’s existence, and it will only be voided if targets are not met in the subsequent three years.
Agudah has become less opposed to the financial penalties clause, with sources saying that the rabbinic and political leadership view them as relatively soft and could anyway be offset by diverting money to yeshiva students through other channels.
The committee also discussed the civilian service program which haredi men can enlist into in lieu of military service, which forms a significant portion of the overall haredi enlistment targets in the new legislation.
The program has suffered a severe decline in enlistment since 2014, with the target for the 2016/2017 enlistment year being missed by 66%, largely due to lower pay for civilian service (sherut leumi) than IDF service and the fact that large numbers of potential civilian service recruits were given permanent military service exemptions under the 2014 Enlistment Law passed by the last government.
Program director Reuven Pinski suggested raising the age limit for entry into civilian service to bolster recruitment to it, increasing pay and expanding the security tracks within the program for service in the Israel Police, Israel Prison Service and the Fire Service, where currently only 300 recruits are serving.
Amsalem said however that such issues should be dealt with directly in amendments to the law for civilian service, and not in the complex and politically charged haredi enlistment bill itself.
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