Peri bill on haredi enlistment approved by cabinet
Bill now expected to come to Knesset for first reading next week; Litzman: Students to go to prison rather than capitulate to law.
By HERB KEINON, JEREMY SHARON, LAHAV HARKOV
The cabinet and the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill to draft haredim into the army by 2017 on Sunday, but activists who have campaigned for the conscription of ultra-Orthodox men panned it as “a decisive blow” against that goal.
The bill passed by a vote of 14-0, with four abstentions from Yisrael Beytenu ministers, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir, and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, as well as Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel of Bayit Yehudi.
The Yisrael Beytenu ministers abstained because the bill did not include provisions for obligatory enlistment of Israeli Arabs to some form of national service, while Ariel abstained because of opposition to criminal punishment for haredim who do not enlist.
The bill is now expected to come to the Knesset for its first reading next Wednesday after which it passes to a special committee headed by Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked for further deliberation.
“After 65 years we are bringing for cabinet approval the guidelines for increasing equality in the [military and tax] burdens,” Netanyahu said at the outset of the weekly cabinet meeting.
The prime minister said this would be done gradually, with “consideration for the special needs of the haredi population.”
He said integrating ultra- Orthodox youth into the work force was no less important than drafting them into the army or national service.
Yesh Atid leader and Finance Minister Yair Lapid and his party colleague Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, who headed the committee that drafted the bill, lauded the new legislation, but the Forum for Equality in the Burden of Service, a campaign group, said that satisfaction with the draft law was misplaced.
The group declared that there would be no increase in haredi enlistment over the next four years, and charged Lapid with conducting a campaign of “spin” while accusing the media of buying into it.
“It’s unclear why the press has subjugated itself to Lapid’s spin and is reporting as if a law for equal service has been passed,” the group wrote in a statement to the media. “What the government has approved today is a decision to postpone haredi enlistment for another four years.”
The forum is taking issue with clauses in the bill that will only mandate obligatory service in 2017. In addition, the draft law will allow anyone who is 22 and over on the day the law is passed to receive an automatic exemption from military service and enable them to enter the work force.
Anyone who is between 18 and 22 when the law is enacted will be encouraged to enlist but will be able to defer service until age 24, after which he will be eligible for a full exemption and be allowed to join the work force.
Anyone who is 18 and under when the law is passed will be obligated to enlist, but will be able to defer service until age 21, which, if the law is passed this year, will be 2016.