A draft bill drawn up to form the basis of legislation for drafting haredi men
into national service has come under heavy fire for failing to provide
appropriate incentives to encourage enlistment.
The proposed terms for
the legislation, devised by a ministerial committee headed by Science,
Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri of Yesh Atid, do not include personal
financial sanctions against someone refusing to serve but instead would subject
such a person to imprisonment, as is the law for all Israelis who have not been
granted an exemption.
The proposals, to be fully implemented by 2017,
would allow a full-time haredi yeshiva student to defer service from age 18 till
age 21, after which he will be obligated to enlist in either the IDF or the
civilian service or face imprisonment. At the same time, 1,800 students would be
granted a complete exemption from military service every year. Currently,
approximately 7,000 haredi men turn 18 every year, although estimates for this
For the interim period, enlistment targets for haredi men
would be set in the period leading up to 2017 peaking at a total of 5,200
recruits for the IDF and civilian service programs combined for 2016.
the proposals allow for anyone who is between the age of 18 and 22 on the day
the law is enacted to chose whether or not they wish to continue deferring
military service, which will be permitted until age 24, after which they will be
According to the draft bill, after 2016 70 percent of the annual
cohort of haredi men turning 18 must enlist every year. If this target is not
met, anyone refusing to serve “will be subject to the Law of the Security
Services (1986) which includes the sanctions written in that law.”
sanctions are imprisonment for two years.
Meanwhile, Yisrael Beytenu
threatened to vote against the bill if provisions for the obligatory enlistment
of Israeli Arabs to the civilian service program after five years are not added
to the bill.
The draft bill proposes a target of 6,000 Arab recruits a
year for the program, five years after the enactment of the law.
Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who is Yisrael Beytenu’s representative
on the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, said that if such provisions were
not added before the bill came before the committee on Sunday, he and Yisrael
Beytenu would vote against it.
Prof. Yedidya Stern, who served as a
member of the Plesner Committee which drew up a plan for haredi enlistment last
year, heavily criticized the new proposals, saying they would be ineffective and
would severely damage the rule of law if enacted in law.
that the threat of imprisonment would give credence to claims by hard-line
haredi leaders that the state wishes to oppress the haredi community and would
lead young haredi men, who might have considered enlistment, to reject the
Additionally, the practical impossibility of imprisoning
thousands of haredi yeshiva students who would refuse to serve in national
service programs would mean that the law would simply be flouted, causing severe
damage to the principle of the rule of law, Stern said.
He also said that
the proposals for the interim period were problematic.
Today close to 30%
of haredim enlist in civilian service or the IDF, but if there is a blanket
exemption for 18-22 year olds until 2016, this figure will dramatically decline,
The proposed bill does include incentives, both positive and
negative, for enlistment, but focuses them on institutions, not
If a yeshiva does not meet enlistment targets it will have
its budget cut, whereas a yeshiva with high rates of enlistment will receive
Further, a yeshiva dean who submits documents
reporting that a man is studying at his institution but who in practice does not
fulfill his quota of study hours – which will be 45 hours a week – will be
subject to criminal measures.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Stern said
that the proposals would not achieve the goal of increasing haredi
“Once again, in trying to deal with the issue of increasing
haredi enlistment, the State of Israel has addressed [the matter] in a careless
manner which is not based on a sociological understanding that takes into
account the needs of the minority groups and the needs of the state,” said
“If the state threatens to do something that it can’t carry out,
such as imprisoning anyone who refuses to serve, then it will undermine the rule
Hiddush, a religious-freedom lobbying group, criticized the
lengthy timelag until full implementation of the law, which it said could mean
that it might never become operative.
“Mandatory service is being
postponed by four years, perhaps to the next Knesset term, so that there is a
very big chance that it will never happen,” said Hiddush director and Reform
Rabbi Uri Regev.
The Forum for Equality in the Burden of Military Service
weighed in, too, saying that “the haredim can afford themselves a big
“Instead of beginning to draft haredim immediately, as demanded
by the High Court of Justice, the proposals talk about some abstract service in
three years time when they’ll already be a new government and this law will be a
dead letter,” the group said.
While facing heavy criticism from draft
reform advocates, the proposals were also panned by haredi MKs.
who thinks that it is possible to force enlistment on those who are studying
Torah through any kind of sanctions forgets that the Jewish people has stood
proudly to guard its traditions throughout history, and has withstood tough
challenges with fortitude,” MK Meir Porush of the United Torah Judaism party
said on haredi radio station Radio Kol Hai.
UTJ MK Ya’acov Litzman said
that anyone seeking to impose quotas on the number of students able to study
full time in yeshiva “reveals his ignorance in this complicated and sensitive
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said on Thursday night that the
changes being considered to address issues surrounding the “equal burden”
controversy raised complex legal issues.
He added it would take
approximately two weeks for him to fully formulate a final position on the