High Court blasts state for no end in sight on drafting haredim into IDF

Court holds discussion of petitions calling on state to draft eligible ultra-Orthodox men into the army immediately.

Haredim protest enlistment 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Haredim protest enlistment 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
A maximum nine-panel bench of the High Court of Justice on Tuesday repeatedly pummeled the state, demanded to know when the new legislation to resolve the issue of drafting haredim into the IDF would be completed.
The court also implied the state was contradicting its earlier positions by asking for more time.
Time after time, different justices asked what was the deadline for completing the legislation and how far along it was, with the state merely repeating that the Knesset “was working intensively” and commenting that it “had no prophetic powers.”
In August 2013, Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein publicly pressed Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked, who chairs the Knesset committee on the issue, to finish the bill in the near-immediate future.
Weinstein had told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon that the process for passing the bill should be pushed ahead more rapidly, even during the Knesset recess.
Edelstein’s response, weeks after the first reading of the bill was approved, was essentially that it was not the attorney- general’s job to set schedules for the legislature.
Weinstein had said that he viewed it as “his duty” as the government’s lawyer to “convey to the prime minister and the defense minister the problems that were liable to occur” in the court proceeding, including unspecified dire consequences, if the legislative process drew out much longer.
The court said that several months having passed since Weinstein took that hard-line position on finishing the law soon, and the sense that the state had even less of an idea now about how soon the new law would be finished than before, was a blatant contradiction.
The state responded that Weinstein’s statements had merely been a tool for trying to press the legislative process forward, not to take a position on a specific hard deadline.
The court also seemed annoyed that the state appeared to be taking advantage of the freeze of the Law of the Security Services that the court ordered in August 2013.
In one of the hearings, the High Court demanded that the defense minister explain why he deferred drafting haredi men of the 1994 and 1995 cohorts, but instead of ordering an immediate draft the court ordered a freeze of the Law of the Security Services.
The freeze means that the provision of the law that says that delayed drafting of a draftee for more than a year reduces the amount of time that person must serve will not apply, and that, at least in theory, any court order to draft the haredim in question would still obligate them to serve a full term.
The court implied that when it ordered the freeze to maintain the status quo, it had not expected that to be an extended situation, but that the state was using the freeze as an excuse for buying time.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, along with several other groups, petitioned the High Court to draft haredi men from 1994-1995 following the expiration of the Tal Law on August 1, 2012.
This law provided a legal framework for full-time yeshiva students to indefinitely postpone their military service, but this option no longer exists since the law expired.
MQG has complained that more than a year has passed since the Tal Law was struck, and yet the Ministry of Defense has still not drafted any haredi men except on a voluntary basis.
Hundreds of conscription notices were sent out by the ministry to haredim approaching the age of enlistment, but Ya’alon decided in July 2013 to send deferral letters of at least four months to 608 haredi men, who have been continually deferred since.
This was another issue where the court went on the attack, arguing that the state counsel’s claim that Ya’alon had the power to continue to defer the draft dates with no set deadline contradicted earlier statements by the state that his powers of deferral were limited.
The hearing also briefly addressed a petition demanding that the state cease subsidies to haredi yeshiva students who are not enlisting in the IDF, with the court criticizing the state for ignoring this issue.Jeremy Sharon contributed to this story.