The recommendations of the Perry Committee for the drafting of yeshivah students completed on Thursday was roundly rejected by chareidi MKs and seemed unlikely to satisfy much of the rest of the Israel political spectrum as well.
As had been anticipated, the committee decided on limiting the number of draft exemptions for yeshivah students to 1,800 in a recruitment program to be phased in over 3 years. Eighteen-year-olds will be allowed to defer army or civilian service for three years. A target was set of 5,200 chareidi recruits by 2016. Yeshivos that fail to cooperate will be sanctioned with the loss of funding according to the percentage of students who did not appear for induction. Yeshivah heads will be required to sign declarations accepting responsibility for their students.
While draft proposal does not include any individual sanctions for the next three years, once this interim time period is up, the committee recommendations call for harsh economic sanctions, including liability to criminal prosecution for those who do not comply with the law.
The new law is supposed to take effect on August 1, assuming it wins approval by the Cabinet and then the Knesset.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a source with detailed knowledge of the bill expressed concern about some aspects of the bill, but said that it could have been even worse.
“The harshest aspects of the law won’t go into effect for three years, and by then the government coalition will hopefully have been replaced with one that includes the chareidim,” he said.
The chareidi MKs were unstinting in their criticism.
MK Menachem Moses (UTJ) warned, “There will not be a situation in which a Torah student finds himself in jail or threatened in one way or another. We will not be cowed with coercive legislation and draconian sanctions. This is a bill that was born of complete ignorance and misunderstanding of the chareidi sector, and a hatred of religion, and its entire aim is the uprooting of the values of Judaism
and religion. We are
loyal to the instructions of the Gedolim and they will instruct us how to act.”
“The bill is divorced from reality and will not be implemented, of course,” declared United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman. “Anyone who speaks about limiting Torah learners, setting a goal for top yeshivah students and quotas, exhibits ignorance in this ever-so-sensitive and complicated matter, as well as a patronizing and supercilious attitude.
“We have guarded Torah students throughout the generations, and today, too, there will not be a situation in which a person who wishes to study Torah in Israel finds himself in jail or paying fines,” he predicted.
“The chareidi representatives did not take part in the Perry Committee deliberations because of the clear aim of the Lapid-Bennett government under Netanyahu to harm Torah students, to place limitations on a huge and central sector of Torah observers, in the guise of seeking equality in sharing the burden of military service.”
MK Meir Porush (UTJ) said that instead of setting up a committee to discuss chareidi enlistment, he would have expected ministers to discuss why secular education leads youths “to murder, steal and more … deeds that a chareidi Jew is ashamed to even speak about.”
“Let whoever has a part in this wretched law, which is an attempt to crush the Torah world, know that the future of our existence here in the Land is in danger,” he said. “I call on the Jewish Home rabbis: It is not too late. Do not lend your hands to this harsh blow to the Torah world and to the holy yeshivos that are the soul of the Jewish nation.”
Dissatisfaction with the recommendations was heard from within the ruling coalition, too. Yisrael Beiteinu said on Thursday that its support will be contingent on recruitment targets set for young Arabs, not only chareidim.
Internal Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovich, Yisrael Beiteinu’s representative on the Perry Committee, said, “If the proposal will be voted on Sunday, without introducing changes, I intend to vote against the proposal, as will all ministers from our party in the Cabinet.”
From the left, the reaction was just the reverse — that the proposals don’t go far enough.
The Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden voiced their frustration, saying, “Instead of recruiting chareidim immediately, as mandated by the High Court of Justice, we are looking at an abstract service in three years, when another government will be in office and the law will become null and void.”
The chareidi parties were not the only ones excluded from the Perry Committee deliberations. The chairman of the civilian National Service, Sar Shalom Gerbi, protested that it was inconceivable that recruitment targets for the military and civilian service should be established without consulting him.
“It’s impossible that they shall impose these schedules upon us without consultation,” he said.