Draft for 18-year-old ultra-Orthodox Youths to Start in 2020 Only

Knesset committee extends deferment for yeshiva students.

Gili Cohen
Jonathan Lis
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Gili Cohen
Jonathan Lis

Compulsory military service will not be imposed on 18-year-old ultra-Orthodox males until 2020, a government panel has decided.

The universal-service legislation drafted by the Perry Committee was approved by the cabinet two weeks ago. The latest version of the bill is scheduled to go to the Knesset Monday.

In a legal opinion issued earlier this month, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein accepted the proposal overall but raised reservations about certain provisions in regard to the principle of equality. His remarks focused on benefits for Haredi conscripts during a defined “transition period” between the law’s enactment and July 2017, when it is to be fully implemented.

The committee specified that enlistment at age 18 will not be compulsory during this period for draft-age Haredim, who will be permitted to defer service until age 21 not only until July 2017 but for an additional three years, until June 30, 2020.

Weinstein was adamant that these benefits be temporary only, with clear time limits in place.

The latest version of the bill sets annual minimum conscription targets for the number of ultra-Orthodox entering military or civilian service during the seven-year period. If the targets are met ‏(3,300 in 2013, 3,800 in 2014 and so forth‏), half of all 18-year-old Haredi males could be exempted from service.

Not until 2016 is the target − 5,200 conscripts out of a total of an estimated 7,000 ultra-Orthodox males who turn 18 that year − expected to include a majority of the age cohort.

In his opinion, Weinstein accepted that the temporary provisions could be extended past July 2017 but insisted that they must “not be extended for long periods, so that they can be reexamined within a reasonable time frame.”

The cabinet is expected to reevaluate the program before the transition period ends, at which point various amendments may be introduced.

Weinstein also commented on the issue of extending female soldiers’ service, which the Perry Committee decided would be lengthened to 28 months instead of the present two years. He said there is no yardstick by which to judge the length of women’s service and that as such it would be difficult to rule whether it is a step toward equality or not. However, religious women are currently exempt from military service, while men serve for three years ‏(which would be shortened to 32 months under to the proposed law‏).

Ultra-Orthodox soldiers attending a swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem. May 26th, 2013.Credit: Tali Meyer