Israel Democracy Institute researchers propose alternative plan for haredi enlistment

Proposal calls for 4-year delay on enlistment, deferring draft obligations until the age of 22.

peres meets with haredi soldiers 370 (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
peres meets with haredi soldiers 370
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
“The Peri Law is in fact a dead letter, a gun without bullets. Anyone who thinks logically knows that it won’t be possible to enforce,” says Attorney Haim Zicherman, co-author of a new proposal to promote haredi enlistment in the army and address perceived inadequacies in the proposed Equal Burden Law. The plan is a collaborative effort between Zicherman and Professor Yedidia Stern of the Israel Democracy Institute.
Stern and Zicherman argue that the Equal Burden Law, as currently conceived, is bound to fail. Rather, the law’s guarantee that men will be released from the draft after the age of 22 will serve as an incentive for students to run out the clock on enlistment.
“In the medium-term, many fewer will enlist, and in the long-term, the law won’t do anything. What does the law actually say? It says that all must serve, and that anyone who dodges duties will go to prison for two to five years. The government either can’t do this, or it wants a war with the haredim. Either is a disastrous option,” Zicherman told The Jerusalem Post.
“And we know that there won’t be tanks sent in to Bnei Brak. The government won’t send anyone to jail.
Imagine how it would look: Israel sending haredim to prison for going to yeshiva?” Stern and Zicherman’s proposal rests on two basic pillars: a four-year delay on enlistment, deferring draft obligations for haredi men until the age of 22, and the phased mandatory enlistment of two-thirds of the haredi male population at that age. Their plan takes into consideration the need for haredim to “consolidate their religious identity before service.” Zicherman phrased the plan as a winwin upgrade of the Peri Committee’s recommendations.
“We believe the upcoming law’s compromises are harmful for both haredim and the general public. Our plan will serve to benefit all parties’ interests,” he said.
The IDI proposal hinges on the linkage of government funding for haredi institutions to enlistment quotas, condemning the Equal Burden Law for failing to provide incentives to enlistment with anything other than the threat of imprisonment.
“This is simply because the Peri Committee is a political committee: its members are political members, with a political agenda. Professional people who know this field would never have come to such compromises, which will not improve the situation of equal burden in service,” he said.
Stern and Zicherman’s plan, which is available online in Hebrew and English, calls for a phased escalation of haredi enlistment, rather than a waiting period of four years as proposed in the law that stands for consideration before Knesset.
According to the IDI team, this approach would create the conditions for two-thirds of all 22-year-old haredi men to be drafted into the army by 2019.