(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Sunday that the IDF and the Defense Ministry are working on a formula for a new legal framework for haredi yeshiva students that will “allow for” haredi enlistment and not “coerce” enlistment.
Yaalon’s comments come as efforts to address once again the perennial battle over drafting haredi men into military service are heating up, with an implausibly short deadline approaching this month to deal with the legislation on this issue.
The law passed by the last government in March 2014 provided for the gradual implementation of compulsory military conscription for all haredi men through interim enlistment targets until the middle of 2017 when enlistment would be obligatory for all haredi men.
The law was condemned and denounced by the haredi political parties United Torah Judaism and Shas, and a clause in the coalition agreement between UTJ and Likud stated explicitly that amendments must be made to the law within five months of the formation of the government.
It was assumed that it would take five months to formulate and pass the state budget, and so the haredi parties tied the passage of the enlistment law to the same time frame as the budget to ensure that their demands on this issue were implemented.
The five months were technically up on October 14 but the budget has taken longer than predicted, and is now scheduled to be approved by the Knesset by the middle of November.
The amendment being worked on, reportedly by the legal adviser to the Defense Ministry, will change the clause obligating full-time yeshiva students to serve in the army and give the Defense Minister the authority to determine annual targets for enlistment from the haredi sector.
This will assuage the anger of the haredi parties over the principle that a yeshiva student seeking to continue studying would not be free to do so, as stipulated in the 2014 law, but will anger campaigners for haredi enlistment since no negative incentives for haredi enlistment are being considered for the amendment.
“I am in favor of [haredi] enlistment on the one hand, on the other hand [i do not support it] through coercion, and for certain we need to protect the value of Torah study, and therefore I supported the development of this process naturally by allowing for haredi enlistment without coercing it, and I saw this bear fruit and saw how the number of haredi conscripts increased,” Yaalon told the haredi radio station Kol Barama on Sunday.
He said that the IDF and the Defense Ministry were now working on restoring this framework, while acknowledging that it was the High Court of Justice that had struck down the previous law providing full time yeshiva students with enlistment exemptions and that any amendment to this law must be enacted with the legality of exempting yeshiva students from military service in mind.
Last week it was reported however that officials in the Justice Ministry objected to amendment being drawn up, saying that it would be legally problematic and would be struck down by the high court.
Senior haredi MKs Yaakov Litzman, Moshe Gafni, Meir Porush along with Minister Aryeh Deri met with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked last week in order to try and overcome the legal difficulties.