Yaakov Peri 370.
(photo credit: Knesset)
Senior Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri spoke out again on Wednesday against any effort
to prevent criminal sanctions being leveled against yeshiva students refusing to
perform national service.
The issue of haredi enlistment is heightening
political tensions once again, as the committee dealing with the government bill
on the matter gets closer to completing its work.
Peri spoke at the
southern town of Sderot in a conference held in Sapir College, saying that
criminal sanctions against haredi men refusing to serve was “the central pillar”
of the proposed law and that Yesh Atid would not back down on this aspect of the
bill under any circumstances.
“Any attempt to prevent the implementation
of obligatory service will encounter uncompromising opposition from us,” said
Peri, who headed the ministerial committee which drew up the bill.
main issue currently dividing the members of the Knesset’s committee reviewing
the bill is whether or not to apply criminal or economic sanctions to someone
refusing to serve.
Those in favor of criminal sanctions, which are
currently applicable to all Jewish citizens other than haredim, insist that this
is the only way to ensure equality before the law as well as preserving the
IDF’s conscription based system and the principle of “the people’s army,” as it
is referred to.”
Opponents to criminal sanctions say that criminalizing
an ideological position of as large a sector of the population as the haredi
community will damage the notion of the rule of law, since it will not be
possible to implement the provisions of the sanctions which stipulate
imprisonment for anyone refusing to serve.
In addition, they argue that
criminalization will reverse the significant progress made in haredi enlistment
In 2011, the last year for which concrete figures are
available, 28 percent, or over a quarter, of eligible haredi men for that annual
intake enlisted for military or national service.
Peri insisted however
that the bill leaves it up to haredi society to determine whether or not the
criminal sanctions are applied. If targets set by the proposed law are met then
no-one would be considered to be refusing service.
Also speaking at the
Sderot Conference was Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked, a member of the Knesset’s
committee reviewing the bill, who says that using financial penalties is a
negative incentive for enlistment for haredi men.
Shaked said that it was
important to “be wise, not right,” when dealing with the issue.
to work with the haredi leadership,” she said.
“If they don’t fulfil the
[enlistment] targets then we need to impose not criminal sanctions. This is
something haredi society can accept.”
Professor Yedidya Stern of the
Israel Democracy Institute, who spoke at a hearing of the special committee on
Tuesday, told The Jerusalem Post
on Wednesday that financial sanctions would be
sufficiently harsh as to have the desired effect of getting haredi yeshiva
students to leave their studies and enlist.
Stern said that the threats
of criminalization contained within the government bill have led directly to an
intense campaign in haredi society against army service and even to a decrease
in the level of haredi enlistment, witnessed before the current government was