The government released its outline of a new Draft Law concerning the drafting of chareidim into the IDF at the end of last week. The draft outline will begin its passage through the legislative process in another few weeks.
The current outline is only a slight modification of a draft drawn up at the request of then-Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, with small adjustments made to the annual recruitment targets for chareidi males. Liberman had made the passage of his favored version of the draft law a condition for entering any coalition throughout the past four election cycles.
The latest draft also represents a political victory of current Defense Minister Benny Gantz over Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in that the age at which chareidim are to receive their full exemption from draft status as yeshivah students remains unchanged, at the age of 24. Bennett had repeatedly expressed his intention to drop the exemption age to 21, arguing that this would benefit both the economy and the chareidim themselves. However, Gantz insisted on the cut-off age remaining at 24, and his opinion prevailed. It seems that yet another pre-election promise of Bennett will be broken.
Another section of the new law establishes recruitment targets that the chareidi sector is required to meet, rising each year. In the event that the targets are not met by at least 95%, yeshivas will be penalized with harsh economic sanctions.
The law will likely be presented to the Knesset at the start of its winter session, immediately after Sukkos.
Responding to the new law, MK Rabbi Meir Porush (UTJ) said, “After repeated postponements, the Draft Law is once again being submitted, and we find ourselves at the forefront of the struggle. Torah-true Jews will continue their battle to ensure that anyone who learns Torah will be recognized as a yeshivah student and will not be drafted. We will fight for the truth of the matter, which is that only the Torah grants us our right to exist, and we will stand firm against all demands to acquiesce to this law’s provisions. The recruitment targets stipulated in the new outline are irrelevant.
“Our yeshivos are the heart and soul of the Jewish People and the secret of our survival,” Rabbi Porush continued. “Ever since the times of our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, Torah study has not ceased among Am Yisrael, and it will certainly not cease here, in Eretz Yisrael. Torah study in the yeshivos and the kollelim is the only guarantor of the continued existence of the Jewish People and the emergence of a new generation of Torah-true Jews, and that is why no amount of threats or financial sanctions will sway us on this issue.
“We have a Divine promise that ‘This Torah shall not be forgotten among your descendants,’ and as such, we know that the holy yeshivos will continue to exist regardless of all external circumstances, no matter the price we are forced to pay,” he concluded.