Ya’alon proposal rejected by draft reform activists

An "intifada of High Court petitions" to be submitted against Defense Ministry on August 1, campaigner warns.

What, me serve? 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
What, me serve? 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Haredi politicians and campaigners for ultra- Orthodox enlistment draft reform heavily criticized Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s outline for drafting haredi men into the army, which he presented on Monday.
Ya’alon’s plan seeks to raise the number of haredim enlisting in the IDF or doing national service from the current 2,400 to 6,000 by 2016, and lower the age of exemption from 28 to 26. The goal for Arab civilian service in 2016 is 5,000, more than double the current amount – 2,400.
In response to the proposals made public on Sunday, Idan Miller, a leading activist for military draft reform, called the proposal “surrender” to the haredi coalition parties, and threatened that Defense Minister Ehud Barak will face “an intifada of High Court petitions” if he does not draft haredi men on August 1 when the “Tal Law” expires.
The Tal Law has, since 2002, provided the legal framework for full-time yeshiva students to indefinitely postpone military service. When it expires, the 1949 Law for Security Service – which mandates compulsory military service for all citizens reaching the age of 18 – will go into effect.
“In another nine days, when the Tal Law will depart from this world...
the defense minister will be obligated to draft every Jewish citizen who reaches age of 18,” Miller said. “If he doesn’t act in accordance with the law, then he’ll have to deal with an intifada of High Court petitions that will force the government to do what is morally and ethically required.”
Although Shas has not responded to Ya’alon’s proposal, a source within the party told The Jerusalem Post last week that the party was concerned about such a situation, and considers the potential legal vacuum a serious problem.
Last week, Barak said that in light of the failure to replace the Tal Law, the draft would be widened in August to include haredi men “on the basis of preparatory work done by the IDF over the past year to prepare for increased haredi enlistment,” which was requested by the government.
The Council for Military Service Equality, a leading campaign group, said on Monday that the Camp Sucker movement as a whole would be relocating its encampment to the offices of the Defense Ministry on Wednesday.
They will demand that all 17-year-old haredi boys be sent their draft orders, as will be required by law on August 1, and that all yeshiva students who have until now been exempt from national service under the provisions of the Tal Law be drafted within a year.
The group called Ya’alon’s proposal “worse than the Tal Law,” and said that it was “a disgrace to see a former IDF chief of staff sell out those who serve for the sake of an inexplicable swindle with the haredi parties.”
Meanwhile, senior haredi MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism expressed opposition to all legislation that would change the status of yeshiva students in any way.
“Those who study Torah are the guardians of the Jewish people and the ones who maintain the existence of the world,” he told haredi daily Yated Ne’eman on Monday. “Any attempt to entice those who study Torah to stop learning will encounter a wall of opposition from haredi Jewry.”
Former head of the IDF Manpower Directorate Maj.-Gen. (res.) Elazar Stern called Ya’alon’s draft “a joke,” specifically referring to the proposal that haredi men be allowed to postpone service till age 26.
He said that by this age the overwhelming majority of ultra-Orthodox men are married with children, which would create a huge financial burden for the IDF if it were to draft them – due to subsidies the army provides by law to recruits with families.
Stern added that such recruits would not be able to participate fully in the IDF due to family obligations.
Hiddush, a lobbying group for religious freedom, said that Ya’alon’s proposal reflected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to choose his “anti-Zionist haredi partners over the majority of the Israeli public.”
“The Ya’alon proposal is simply Tal Law 2.0, that is, a program which will see a continuation of draft dodging and discrimination.
History will not forget the coalition partners who betrayed those who bear the burden of military service and, hopefully, neither will the electorate,” said Hiddush director Uri Regev.