Haredi enlistment campaigners berate plans to gut conscription law

Proposed amendment would postpone draft deadline by three years.

By
November 9, 2015 00:50
2 minute read.
Ofer Shelah

Ofer Shelah. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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Haredi enlistment campaigners have denounced the government’s plans to extend a 2017 deadline for implementing compulsory military service for haredi yeshiva students.

According to a draft of an amendment to a 2014 law published on Friday by the Defense Ministry, the deadline shall be postponed until 2020.

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Between 2020 and 2023, an intermediary stage will obligate full time haredi yeshivas to fulfill enlistment targets.

But, unlike the current law which mandates automatic penalties, the defense minister will have the discretion to decide whether criminal penalties will be applied if these targets aren’t met.

The haredi enlistment targets set out in last year’s law will not be changed.

According to the new draft legislation, in 2023 the coalition will either have to extend the law or let it expire, in which case the law for compulsory enlistment will be applicable to haredi yeshiva students as well.

The legislation was drawn up by the Defense and Justice Ministries, in coordination haredi political parties United Torah Judaism and Shas.

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These parties were promised under coalition agreements signed with the Likud after the 2015 elections, that the clause in the original law requiring compulsory military service for haredi yeshiva students would be repealed.

Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelach, an architect of the 2014 law, said that the proposed amendment would, along with other measures, decrease incentives and motivation among haredi men to perform national service and integrate into the work force.

“The prime minister, the defense minister and the justice minister are uprooting the moral basis on which the national army of Israel rests,” Shelach told Ynet on Sunday.

Shelach pointed at other steps taken at the demand of haredi parties, such as the restoration of income support benefits to yeshiva students and stipends for yeshivas, and said all these proposals were “restoring the situation in which it’s not worthwhile for a haredi man to enlist in the IDF and go out to work.”

The Forum for Equality in the Share of the Military Burden described the legislation as “one of the most cynical amendments ever written in Israel,” and argued that the haredi community had been given long enough to integrate into military service.

“There is no real reason to continue the exemption [from military service],” the campaign group said. “How are the haredi leaders not embarrassed at a time when the whole of the Jewish people are enlisted for defense, to demand an exemption once again.”

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