(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Yesh Atid, along with the Union of Israeli Students, filed a petition to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday against the amendment that gives the defense minister sweeping powers to exempt haredi yeshiva students from military service.
Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern personally submitted the petition on behalf of the party and called on the court to hold hearings on the issue as quickly as possible.
The amendment was passed late Monday night, 49-36.
Likud MK Yoav Kisch, a former draft-equality activist, absented himself from the vote when changes he proposed to the bill were not accepted. He was suspended from his membership of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee until further notice by coalition chairman MK Tzachi Hanegbi, who is also chairman of the committee, due to Kisch’s failure to vote for the bill.
Likud MK Sharren Haskel also did not vote, a step she took when changes she proposed were also defeated, and neither did Kulanu MK Merav Ben-Ari, but neither were punished for not following coalition discipline.
The amendment postpones the implementation of obligatory enlistment on full-time yeshiva students, which was supposed to come into effect in 2017, until 2020, after which the defense minister will have the authority to exempt yeshiva students from military or civilian service if he so wishes, “while bearing in mind” targets established by the government.
According to the amendment, those targets will be established by the government “in accordance with the recommendations of the defense minister.”
The exemptions can be given until the age of 26 at which point the yeshiva students will receive a final exemption from military service.
Yesh Atid’s petition to the High Court specifically cited the written opinion of current Supreme Court Deputy President Elyakim Rubenstein in his ruling in 2012 in favor of declaring the Tal Law, the previous legal framework for yeshiva students to gain national service exemptions, unconstitutional.
“The fact that the law depends exclusively on the will of the executive authority whether or not to implement it and how to implement it testifies to the inherent failures of the law. The broad discretion that is given to the executive authority on the one hand, and the freedom of action that the law gives to deferring service on the other testifies that the arrangement provided by the law is deficient,” Rubenstein wrote at the time.
Yesh Atid’s petition specifically highlights the repeated exemptions the defense minister can give to yeshiva students under the new law, and how many to give, arguing that it was this exact arrangement under the Tal Law, which the court struck down in 2012.
It also notes that the new law allows the defense minister to determine the enlistment target from haredi yeshivas, stating that “in other words, the defense minister will be required to fulfill targets that he himself recommended, and afterwards, if the targets were not met, he has the authority to continue to defer service for yeshiva students, and his guidelines for this decision are the same enlistment targets that he himself recommended.”
Stern said the Knesset caved in on Monday night.
“Last night, in an opportunistic and negligent fashion, the Knesset capitulated to the demands of those who don’t serve,” while asking for the court to hear the petition as quickly as possible.
Yesh Atid faction chairman MK Ofer Shelah decried the lack of social cohesion that he said had led to the restoration of a lack of equality before the law.
“I admit, I have learned a lesson. I need to love my children and only them,” said Shelah. “There is no societal solidarity, there are no common values, there isn’t even equality before the law. And a child of someone else loses three years of his life, and even perhaps his life itself. And for this lesson I thank the haredi lords and their slave who is known as the prime minister.”