Haredi enlistment committee meets for first time

C'tee chairman Peri calls for full cooperation from ministries involved; c'tee has until May 6 to finalize legislation.

Haredi IDF soldiers Tal Law 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout .)
Haredi IDF soldiers Tal Law 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout .)
The ministerial committee tasked with drafting a law for haredi enlistment into national service met for the first time Sunday to begin the legislative process.
The committee chairman, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, opened the meeting by calling for full cooperation from all involved government ministries.
“The needs of the army regarding enlistment will be the highest priority,” Peri said during the meeting, adding that the timing of the committee’s first session on the eve of Remembrance Day, served to highlight the value of equally sharing the burden of military service among all of Israel’s citizens.
“Time is pressing, but regardless we will ensure that complete and transparent discussions are heard on the matter in order to form the legislation,” continued Peri, a former director of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
“The Knesset and government have been dealing with this complicated issue since the end of the 1980s, and the time has come to make a decision. We need to find a new and agreeable solution; we will do this in a sensitive but determined manner,” the minister said.
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, the only female on the committee, said its decisions would be decisive in shaping Israeli society.
“The task of the committee is to create an outline to bring about mandatory service for all citizens in a balanced, gradual, just and fair way, without arousing conflict between brothers, and without inciting different sectors of society against each other,” Livnat said.
The committee has until May 6 to finalize the legislation.
The coalition agreement between Yesh Atid and Likud Beytenu stipulates that the legislation, to be fully implemented in 2017, will provide national service exemptions for only 1,800 haredi yeshiva students above the age of 21 per year.
Previously, anyone wanting to study full-time in yeshiva could do so.
In the interim, the state will set increasing enlistment targets for haredi men aged 18-21 for both IDF and civilian service, starting at 3,300 in 2013 and rising to 5,600 by 2016. Anyone 22 and over will be given a permanent exemption if they request one.
Perhaps the most critical issue to be dealt with by the committee will be the severity of personal financial sanctions to be imposed on anyone choosing not to serve, which is an explicit clause in the coalition agreement between Yesh Atid and Likud Beytenu.
The clause does not specify what the sanctions will consist of however, and it seems likely that the level of severity of such penalties will determine the reaction and level of opposition to the legislation by the haredi leadership.
If the leading Orthodox rabbis and politicians feel that the sanctions would have such a severe effect on the financial viability of the average haredi household that they would cause masses of men to leave yeshiva and join the army, then opposition to the bill is likely to be fierce.