Levin on Haredi IDF exemption bill: Cooperation will bring better results

“Cooperation brings good results,” Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said. “You can’t come after 70 years [of haredim being exempt from the IDF] and change everything."

Soldiers and haredim 370 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Soldiers and haredim 370
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Working together with the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) will bring more of them to enlist in the IDF than trying to force them to serve, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said Monday, the day after he was appointed to head the ministerial committee drafting a new bill to exempt haredim from military service.

“Cooperation brings good results,” Levin said. “You can’t come after 70 years [of haredim being exempt from the IDF] and change everything, suddenly, after that group was used to something and had been promised a certain arrangement since the establishment of the state.”
First prime minister David Ben-Gurion granted haredi yeshiva students an exemption from IDF service that has been in place since Israel’s establishment. In 2012, a haredi-free coalition passed a law that would have done away with the exemption this year. After the 2015 election, the new coalition, in which Shas and UTJ are members, amended the law, such that the target date for conscripting 18-year-old haredim would be pushed off to 2020, but the defense minister would be allowed to exempt anyone from service, without any limitations.
In September, the High Court of Justice declared the 2015 law unconstitutional and gave the government 12 months to come up with a replacement before the existing law is canceled, meaning all 18-year-old haredim will be required to serve.
Levin doesn’t know yet how he can balance the court’s demands with what the haredi parties want in order to remain in the coalition.
“If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t have to have a committee, and I could just put the bill on the table,” he quipped.
Still, he’s confident that a solution can be found. In addition to his tourism portfolio, Levin is the minister who connects the government and the Knesset, and was a coalition chairman in the previous Knesset, which means he has years of experience in negotiating between coalition partners on difficult and sensitive issues.
“The haredim want to come to understandings and not have clashes. We’re going to work from a position that the previous law was good and right. We don’t disagree.
We want to reach an arrangement,” Levin said.
“With goodwill, we’ll succeed,” he added.
Levin had fewer kind words for the court that canceled the bill. The minister is one of the government’s most prominent critics of judicial activism.
“Like in many matters, in this, too, the court acted without any authority, first in canceling a law passed by the Knesset, which in my eyes it does not have the authority to do, and it intervened in a very delicate arrangement between the different parts of our society,” Levin said.
“Again and again the court creates cracks in the internal unity between us. It’s very serious, and we will try to reduce the harm caused by this as much as we can.”
Read the complete interview with Levin, featuring his sharp critiques of judicial activism, in Friday’s edition of The Jerusalem Post.