Liberman announces conscription at 18 for ultra-Orthodox, Arabs

Yisrael Beytenu leader says stagnation of ultra-Orthodox enlistment means that previous, compromise legislation no longer relevant

Haredi youth protest draft bill near Jerusalem entrance (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Haredi youth protest draft bill near Jerusalem entrance
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman said on Monday that he now backs mandatory conscription to the IDF of the ultra-Orthodox and mandatory national service for Arab-Israelis.
Liberman has previously supported legislation prepared by a Defense Ministry committee while he was serving as defense minister which sought to increase voluntary ultra-Orthodox enlistment to the IDF.
But the Yisrael Beytenu leader said that new data revealing that there has been no progress in increasing ultra-Orthodox enlistment to the IDF meant that such “compromise” proposals are now irrelevant.
“The law I brought to the Knesset in the last government which was drafted by the Defense Ministry was a compromise on a compromise,” said Liberman at a conference of the Israel Democracy Institute on matters of religion and state.
“We proposed it for the sake of a peaceful accord,” he continued, but noted that the ultra-Orthodox parties rejected it.
Liberman said he would now submit a bill his party first proposed in 2015 in which “all young men aged 18, regardless of whether he is a Jew, a Muslim, or Christian, has to enlist,” adding that there would be no option to defer service to the age of 24 as there currently is.
He said that under the legislation, enlistment could be performed through military service in the IDF or in an alternative national service program.
Liberman also pointed to David Ben-Gurion’s desire that the IDF serve as a “melting pot” in which all components of Israel’s society can come together, saying that the army had neglected this role of late.
One of the frequently heard claims from ultra-Orthodox opponents of IDF enlistment is that the effort to draft them into military service is designed to eradicate their identity and make them non-observant.
Liberman repeated his vow not to sit with the ultra-Orthodox parties in any new government, and underlined his commitments on several matters of religion and state.
The former defense minister said one of his key demands is to make Orthodox Jewish conversion more accessible by allowing municipal chief rabbis to establish conversion courts.
He also seeks to abolish local religious councils are responsible for providing religious services in their jurisdictions, but have been frequently accused of providing poor services, corruption and politicization.
Liberman proposes to replace the councils with departments for religious services within local municipal authorities, as recommended by a government mandated report.
He also repeated his pledge to introduce core curriculum studies to ultra-Orthodox elementary schools.
“When ultra-Orthodox children get to the age of 13 in the modern world and have never learned English, math or computers for even one day then they become a net burden on all of Israeli society, because they are not able to bring in an income and support a family, especially given the large number of children in the ultra-Orthodox sector,” he said.