IDF to send out first draft notices to thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews
Chances that army will actually enforce draft notices are considered very low.
The army will be sending first draft notices to some 7,500 ultra-Orthodox men in early September.
The notices will ask 17- and 18-year-old Haredim eligible to be drafted in 2013 to report to draft offices to begin the process of determining where they will serve. The notices are being sent because the Tal Law, which governed draft deferrals for Haredi yeshiva students, expired in August and the government hasn't yet managed to pass alternative legislation.
However, the chances that the army will actually enforce the draft notices are considered very low.
In 2013, Haredim will constitute 13 percent of all draft-age males. Currently, however, only about 30 percent of Haredim do either military service or alternative civilian service; most don't serve at all.
Under the Tal Law, Haredim had to report to draft offices only to sign the forms to defer their service. Now, they will theoretically have to undergo the same screening process as other draft-age men.
The Israel Defense Forces spokesman told Haaretz that in obedience to the High Court of Justice decision ruling the Tal Law unconstitutional and the orders it has received from the defense minister, the army is now drafting all eligible men, "subject to whatever draft policy is set, and then approved by the government. This policy hasn't yet been approved, and therefore the manner in which the Haredi population will be drafted hasn't yet been determined."
Screening to be adapted to Haredim
Nevertheless, IDF sources confirmed that thousands of draft notices will be sent out shortly. But they said the screening process will be adapted to meet the Haredim's special needs insofar as possible.
The Haredi community appears to be very worried by the prospect of the draft notices being sent out, even though the initial visit to the draft office is used for nothing more than verifying personal data, allowing those who haven't yet finished high school to request a deferral, and having the future draftees sign a form declaring themselves fit to undergo various psychological and technical tests.
The Degel Hatorah party's Council of Torah Sages, which is considered the right flank of the Haredi community in terms of its opposition to the draft, has warned Haredi teens to avoid signing any document that indicates willingness in principle to be drafted at any point in the future.
But the IDF General Staff is also unhappy with the Defense Ministry's decision to have it send out initial draft notices to Haredim. Its view is that until some new agreement has been reached on drafting Haredim, not only will sending out draft notices not succeed, but it is liable to result in head-on clashes that could actually reduce the number of Haredim serving in the army.
Moreover, it believes some deal ultimately will be made with the Haredim that will result in most of the notices being canceled, meaning that the clashes will have been totally superfluous.
The IDF and the Defense Ministry are currently working on new legislation that they hope will satisfy both the High Court and the relevant political parties.
The army's goal is to expand the number of Haredim who serve by expanding the special service tracks it has created for them in various technological and logistics units, and perhaps also by creating another Haredi combat unit. The new unit probably would not be another infantry unit like the existing one, the Nahal Haredi; instead, the army is considering creating an aerial defense or home-front rescue unit.
The IDF also supports expanding civilian service options for Haredim who are not suitable for military service.