Yesh Atid petitions High Court on haredi exemption

Lapid tries to block PM exempting 1,300 Haredim from IDF service: "Israel cannot distinguish between blood of Haredim and others."

Haredi and IDF soldier Tal law Jerusalem 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Haredi and IDF soldier Tal law Jerusalem 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Yesh Atid filed a petition with the High Court of Justice on Monday to block Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision on Sunday to exempt 1,300 haredim from military service in favor of national service.
Lapid and eight other members on his list for the Knesset personally filed the petition and spoke out on the issue from the courthouse.
The Yesh Atid Party leader said the government’s releasing of haredim from military service “was a disgraceful decision made for political reasons and with contempt” for the High Court’s decision nullifying the Tal Law, which allowed haredi men to evade service, four months ago.
Lapid added, “It cannot be that the State of Israel distinguishes between blood [of haredim] and blood [of others].”
Rather, he said there must be “equal service for all.”
“With the assistance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the haredi parties took advantage of this moment before the election, to express contempt for the rule of law, contempt for secular and religious [non-haredi] sectors of society and contempt for the IDF,” said Lapid.
According to Lapid, the government’s decision is a “blatant mockery of an express decision of the High Court, and we cannot allow this decision to pass.”
He also slammed the Labor Party, stating, “I do not understand why I stand here alone on the steps of the court and why there is not by my side the leader of the Labor Party [Shelly Yacimovich] as a partner in this process.”
Lapid concluded: “We are here to commit that we will not sit in a government that does not accept this principle” and that “this is one of our five commitments and part of our contract with the State of Israel.”
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post, Boaz Nul, one of the leaders of the draft reform campaign and a candidate for Knesset for the Tzipi Livni Party, conceded that the civilian service request for new manpower was understandable, but that the decision was problematic from a legal perspective.
The Camp Sucker movement which Nul leads pitched its tents once again at Tel Aviv’s Central Train Station on Monday in protest.
Nul described the decision as an attempt to placate the Shas Party on the issue of haredi enlistment ahead of the elections, and called on Netanyahu to declare publicly the terms of new legislation he intends to propose to replace the Tal Law.
Director of the Civilian Service Sar-Shalom Gerbi told the Post that the petition against the government decision was “misplaced.”
“The civilian service will be part of any future arrangement for haredi enlistment, so it’s hard to see what the fuss is about,” Gerbi said. “Eighty-five percent of graduates from the program have integrated into the work force, so in that regard it is very successful and needs to be preserved.”
Gerbi argued that the trust built up between the civilian service directorate and the rabbinate of the haredi community was at risk if continued recruitment was not permitted.
He pointed to comments made on Monday in haredi newspaper Yated Ne’eman by the most senior haredi rabbi in the country, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, calling on yeshiva students not to enlist for civilian service as evidence of the danger the program faces.
Yoav Kish, a former leader of the Camp Sucker movement and head of the Likud Panel for Equality in the Burden of Military Service, said the criticism of the government was political in nature and unjustified since it was only intended as a temporary solution to the civilian service’s inability to draft new recruits following the expiration of the Tal Law.
The petition itself begins by recounting the famous Talmudic dictum that “All of Israel is responsible for one another.” It then satirically interprets the passage into Yesh Atid’s view of the context that the “haredim send the secular to die in their place and the secular send the haredim to learn Torah in their place.”
The petition calls the government’s decision an attempt at an end-run around the court’s February decision striking the Tal Law as of August, and blocking further military service exemptions for haredim by the defense minister without Knesset action.
It also accused the government of acting out of political considerations to maintain the loyalty of haredi parties in the governing coalition.
Yesh Atid said in the petition that the only difference between haredi Torah studies and secular academic studies was that haredim studied in yeshivot and the secular in universities, and that in that light, there was no reason haredim should get special privileges.
The petition attacked what it said was faulty reasoning, in which the government claimed the authority to fashion the new policy in light of its residual authority, since the Knesset had failed to act.
In contrast, the petitioners said there is no case where residual authority allows the state to carry out policies which are explicitly against a prior ruling of the court simply because the Knesset has not acted.
The petition cites a dissenting opinion from 2002 when the majority of the court initially upheld the Tal Law, as a prophetical declaration of the problems with the law which would eventually demand its cancellation.
Joining Yesh Atid in its petition was Maj. Yehuda Ressler (res.), a lawyer who the petition said has been fighting the exemption of haredim from military and national service since the early 1970s, including involvement in seven prior petitions to the court. He also filed a petition the day after the Tal Law was passed in 2002.
Finally, the petition said the reason for the timing of the decision was that the government wanted to avoid hearing Ressler’s previously filed petition, which is due to be heard on December 15, to compel the state to do a mass draft of young haredim.
The Movement for Quality Government (MQG) in Israel, an NGO, also filed a petition against the government decision, calling on the High Court to grant a temporary injunction freezing the defense minister’s ability to grant the 1,300 exemptions from military service.
The organization argued that the government and the defense minister were providing exemptions despite the fact that the High Court has demanded that the government explain why it has not drafted the approximately 40,000 yeshiva students who were receiving military deferrals under the now expired Tal Law, in accordance with an MQG petition from July.