Government Sends Military Draft Bill to Knesset

YERUSHALAYIM -

The legislative proposal calling for the drafting of yeshivah students into the army was sent by the Cabinet to the Knesset late Wednesday, where it will have to be debated and voted on before being enacted in any form.

The 33-page text of the bill makes no mention of any defense need as justification for the measure. Rather, the decision to recruit yeshivah students, by force if necessary, was explained in social terms, “to advance a gradual process of societal change relating to the yeshivah students.” The government explains that the objective of drafting yeshivah students is to use the IDF “melting
pot,” as it was called in the state’s early years, as a tool to
integrate them into wider Israeli society.

The preface to the bill leaves it to the government to determine what sanctions, economic or criminal, might be necessary to enforce its goal of full recruitment by 2017, if voluntary enlistment is insufficient by that time.

The bill defines the gradual implementation of the law. From when it is passed until 2017, quota targets will be set for increasing numbers of chareidim to join the army or civil service without any enforcement. From 2017-2020, the government will be able to force conscription for all bnei yeshivah except the 1,800 exemptions that will be issued. However, bachurim will be able to defer service from age 18, the standard draft age, until age 21, during which time they can learn.

Mindful that organizations and politicians will petition the High Court claiming that the three-year deferral continues the “inequality in sharing the burden,” the government made the law as a temporary provision that will be reevaluated in 2020.  After 2020, all bnei yeshivah will be drafted at age 18, barring any legislation at that point that overrides this law.

The parliamentary process was moving too slowly for the advocates of drafting chareidim, however, and pressure was being brought by the Yesh Atid party to speed things up. According to the coalition agreement, the draft law is to be passed before the budget. However, if no budget is passed by the end of July, the government is dissolved and new elections need to be held.

Despite Yesh Atid’s insistence that the law be passed in the current Knesset session, which ends on 24 Av, coalition chairman MK Yariv Lavin (Likud) said that due to the crowded agenda, it would not be possible to have final voting before the summer adjournment. A vote on the preliminary first reading of the bill in the plenum has been scheduled for Monday, July 22 (Tu B’Av).

Yaalon to Suspend Outstanding Draft Call-Up Notices

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon responded to petitions to the High Court demanding conscription of chareidim by August 15, the deadline set by the judges for replacing the expired Tal Law for military exemptions. He asked that in light of the progress being made, any legal decision on the matter be postponed while legislation is pending.

In addition, Yaalon told the court that he was considering postponement of the induction of thousands of yeshivah students who have already received orders to appear at recruiting office on August 18.

“A policy by which these students are drafted is at this point incongruent with the bill and might even jeopardize governmental efforts to regulate the issue,” he explained.