A meeting of a committee convened for the purpose of creating new IDF draft legislation, focusing on ultra-Orthodox recruits, broke down as an intense argument between Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) erupted on Wednesday.
The two plan to submit the bill on Monday for a first reading in the plenum, and to finish the committee discussions by the following week. That's the last week of Knesset activity before its summer recess - and before the Tal Law expires.
The argument concerned regulations for drafting ultra-Orthodox men, including the severity of sanctions on individuals who would fail to report for duty, as well as how long a full implementation of an ultra-Orthodox drafting program would take.
During the meeting, Yaalon revealed his final positions to Plesner for the first time, after days of exploring the possibilities. One official close to the committee commented "We've reached a dead end. Ya'alon has gone back on most of the conclusions reached with Plesner over the last few days."
On Tuesday, Ya'alon ventured into the lion's den, so to speak, to address an annual Haredi business conference sponsored by the Hamodia newspaper; he tried to explain that the intention of the new law is not to destroy the Torah world. He said that he and Plesner were looking to establish "a gradual plan that is implementable and which all the involved frameworks can prepare for."
Ya'alon expressed appreciation at the conference on Tuesday for the importance of Torah study and added, "The public and political debate has been rife with ignorance, incitement, disregard and not a little irrelevance. I am stating clearly: It's not possible to implement a law that will draft everyone at age 18. It's important not to cause a rift in the nation."
It's doubtful that many Haredim were reassured, however. Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the leading Haredi rabbis, issued a sharply worded letter via the Yated Ne'eman newspaper rejecting any initiative to draft the Haredim.
"Be careful for your lives," he wrote. "Know for a fact that the only reason the Jewish people merit existence is the merit of the holy Torah students who have nothing in their lives but the four cubits of halakha."
"It has been simple and clear to every Jew, from the moment we became a people, that interfering with the purity of those studying in the holy yeshivas and introducing them to foreign ideas, God forbid, presents a grave danger," he wrote.
The anti-Zionist Eida Haredit group is planning a demonstration next week against the draft of Haredim. The protest is to include children marching with their hands tied.
In posters hung in Jerusalem announcing the event, the group declared: "At a time of religious persecution and decrees, no person dare stay home."
Meanwhile, an independent group of moderate Haredim plans to set up a tent in Tel Aviv on Wednesday and hold a press conference where it will present its own proposal to replace the Tal Law.
The proposal includes the principles that "military service is critical to preserving the state, and civilian service is crucial to sustaining society," "anyone who isn't studying Torah must serve," and "such service must be compensated and non-service must carry a price."
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