Several members of the Peri Committee – which has been tasked with drawing up
legislation for drafting haredi men into national service – expressed opposition
to a number of provisions of the draft legislation drawn up over the past two
months, ahead of a committee meeting which began on Sunday evening.
committee convened to discuss the reservations expressed by party
representatives with respect to the draft legislation publicized on Thursday,
with discussions continuing into the night. Although there are numerous points
of argument between the ministers serving on the committee, sources close to the
members expressed confidence that all issues would be resolved during the night
Two concrete agreements have emerged thus far from Sunday
night’s meeting: permanent exemptions for 1,800 yeshiva students every year, out
of an annual intake that currently stands at between 7,000 to 8,000 haredi men
annually; and a clause whereby hesder service would be extended from 16 months
Other issues under discussion, such as criminal sanctions against
those refusing to enlist and the issue of Arab enlistment, had still not been
broached by press time.
Among the more controversial terms of the
Thursday’s outline was the potential imprisonment of someone refusing to serve,
as well as the possibility of criminal charges against a yeshiva dean who
submits inaccurate reports about student attendance.
Speaking at a
ceremony for a pre-military academy in Jerusalem, Defense Minister and Peri
Committee member Moshe Ya’alon of the Likud said that the way to achieve haredi
enlistment “is by encouraging and enabling integration, not by creating a
process of delegitimization and hatred.
“A situation which developed over
the course of 65 years can’t be changed with decision, but through creating a
gradual process without talking about a Torah student going to prison or threats
of criminal sanctions,” Ya’alon continued.
“Some people will say that
this is not equality, and that’s true, but this is the only way to bring more
Israeli youth to take responsibility.”
The provisions covering haredi
enlistment were not the only obstacles to an agreement.
The Hatnua party
issued a statement saying that it would only support the legislation if it were
amended so that participants in the hesder program – which combines 16 months of
army service with three-and-a-half years of yeshiva study for national-religious
men – would be obligated to serve in the army for as long as haredi
“The point is to create equality in the share of the burden of
national service, but the proposed outline distorts the principle in whose name
it has been embarked upon,” the statement said.
Construction and Housing
Minister Uri Ariel told Army Radio, however, that Bayit Yehudi was only prepared
to increase hesder army service by one month, arguing that a high percentage of
hesder participants go on to officer courses and lengthier service than the 16
months prescribed in the hesder framework.
Uriel also took exception to
the provisions for criminal sanctions against those refusing to serve, claiming
that there was no support for it on the committee.
“Everyone is against
[criminal sanctions against heads of yeshivas whose students do not enlist], and
there are agreements on this matter. We do not think that criminal punishments
will change the situation; all research shows that entire groups cannot be
treated as criminals,” said Ariel.
He added, however, that anyone not
serving and choosing not to study Torah should be subject to economic sanctions,
although such measures, financial penalties against individuals, were noticeably
absent from the draft bill.
Deputy Minister for Religious Services Eli
Ben-Dahan added to this sentiment, stating that Bayit Yehudi would work to
remove the provisions for the imposition of criminal charges on those refusing
to serve and yeshiva deans.
“We believe that we must encourage the haredi
public to enlist to the army, but not through coercion or sanctions or inciting
hatred,” Ben-Dahan said at an IDF swearing-in ceremony for haredi
Meanwhile, Yisrael Beytenu ministers continued to express
opposition to any bill which does not include mandatory national service for the
The draft bill proposes reaching a target of 6,000 Arab
recruits a year for the civilian service program five years after the enactment
of the law, but this has not sufficed to meet the demands of Yisrael
“Yisrael Beytenu’s stance has been consistent and clear over the
years,” Tourism Minister Uzi Landau said ahead of Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “We
reject this unequal solution offered in the name of inequality. The Independence
Scroll talks about equality without difference of race, religion or gender, and
we need to aim for that.”
Landau asked why the Peri Committee thought it
was legitimate to force haredim to serve, but not Israeli
“Equality means equality for all,” he said.
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