On Thursday, the Knesset approved a government bill that would make it easier to conscript females to the IDF. Fifty-five MKs from the coalition voted in favor of an amendment to the Defense Service Law, while 50 from the opposition voted against it. The bill was passed to the committees to prepare it for a second and third reading in the Knesset plenum.
The vote was a roll call by name, as per the request of the opposition. That means each of the 120 MKs was called by name, and he or she replied if they were against or in favor of the law. Among those who supported it for the first time were representatives of the Arab Ra’am party, which generated criticism and surprise.
“They made a serious mistake by voting in favor of forced conscription,” MK Ahmed Tibi from the United Arab List declared after the vote, referring to the Arab MKs who had voted in favor it. “Until now, we made sure not to get involved in such issues in the Knesset,” he noted.
MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman rejected the law out of hand, and claimed that “this law that is being presented proves to us that the whole issue of drafting women is simply unnecessary. I plan to submit a bill to nullify the female draft. All the Gedolei Torah from the previous generation and today have classified this issue as ‘yehareg v’al yaavor. There is no need for them in the army. The army looks for work for the women and gives them unnecessary jobs. There is no need, and according to halachah it is forbidden, and all Gedolei Torah say that it must not be done.” Rabbi Litzman added that, “I want to say something else, regarding the Dayanim Law that was presented in the plenum yesterday. This government shamelessly sent an Arab to the podium to present this law, even though he has no idea what it is about. I respect this MK very much, but he is representing a law that he doesn’t even know about; what does he know about Dayanim? Minister for Regional Cooperation Issawi Frij, when the Shas minister goes up, tell them what you want. It’s an embarrassment for the government. Gideon Sa’ar was afraid to come here to present the law, and he could not look at us in the eye, so he sent you. It’s an embarrassment that they sent you, because [Sa’ar] was afraid to look at us in the eye and to present this bill. Twice he sent you. I felt bad for you because we’re friends. I am telling you the truth in your face. Actually, if he was embarrassed, it’s at least a compliment; at least he had enough shame that he didn’t want to come and present the law to us.”
MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni added that “there was a Chief Rabbi of Israel, Harav Yitzchak Eizik Herzog, zt”l. He was the grandfather of the current president, along with Harav Meir Chai Uziel, zt”l, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi. They met the prime minister in the early years of the State and they told him that there is a serious prohibition against drafting girls to the army, and detailed the issues. The same thing with the decision of the Chief Rabbinical Council. Even in the 1970s, the Chief Rabbinate made a unanimous and unequivocal decision on this issue, that women must not enlist to the army. I believe – if I’m not mistaken – that we are the only country in the world that has a mandatory draft for women.”
Shas Chairman MK Rabbi Aryeh Deri pointed out the double standard of the government: “While the interior minister, as part of the authority regarding giving citizenship to olim, is not allowed to examine the status of the ‘conversion certificates’ that new immigrants present despite concerns about their authenticity, and he must accept them as is, the IDF is demanding closer scrutiny of the declarations signed by religious girls seeking army exemptions.
“Why is it acceptable that a declaration about religious observance to be exempt from the female draft is not sufficient as is? Moreover, according to this amendment, the army also wants to appoint special committees to more closely scrutinize the women to see if they made a false declaration or not. The stance of chareidi Jewry is that army service must be purely voluntary and not forced by law. But in reality, we, the chareidi MKs, are constantly receiving requests for help from women who are forced to deal with a harsh approach by the army with regard to their draft status.”
MK Rabbi Litzman Proposes Bill to Annul Female Draft
In light of the decision of the government to tighten the female draft rules, MK Rabbi Litzman presented a private bill to nullify the mandatory female draft in Israel.
In explanatory notes on the bill, MK Rabbi Litzman noted that currently, there is no logical or logistical reason to draft women. Israel should follow the rest of the world on this issue, he notes; no other country has a law mandating a female draft.
The bill presented to the Knesset secretary notes that the current law is completely unnecessary in every way, professionally, economically and morally, and therefore it should be nullified immediately.