Israeli Committee Backs Bid to Criminalize Haredi Draft-dodgers

Vote comes after Netanyahu crafts proposal; ultra-Orthodox MKs stay away.

The Shaked Committee on military draft reform approved on Wednesday one of the emerging law’s most controversial clauses: the criminalization of Haredi draft refusal. Ultra-Orthodox Knesset members boycotted the vote, and committee member MK Elazar Stern (Hatnuah), along with other ultra-Orthodox MKs, opposed the compromise that was reached.

Committee chairwoman MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) led the discussion but did not participate in the vote. Her party colleague, MK Moti Yogev, filed an appeal right after the clause was approved – a move that will force an additional vote in the coming days.

“It’s a dumb law,” said Yogev. “Instead of encouraging the ultra-Orthodox to join the IDF, it will encourage them to set garbage cans on fire in Jerusalem.”

MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) also opposed the law, and tried unsuccessfully to make changes to it.

The vote on the controversial clause was made possible Wednesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came up with a proposal, which held that criminal sanctions could be leveled against young ultra-Orthodox men who refuse to be drafted. The proposal was a near-copy of the law proposal made by the Perry Committee on draft reform.

Starting in mid-2017, the national service law will apply to ultra-Orthodox candidates, along with the draft law. Young ultra-Orthodox men will be eligible for the draft to age 24, and be able to delay their draft on a yearly basis until that age. In 2017, when the law goes into effect along with criminal sanctions, a six-month preparation period will go into effect, allowing both the IDF and young ultra-Orthodox men to prepare for the draft.

“There will be no room for the defense minister or the government to use their discretion. If the target draft numbers aren’t met, the IDF will begin automatically drafting those who try to evade,” said one official familiar with the wording of the compromise agreement.

MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) said yesterday that the decision fulfills one of his party’s campaign promises. “This is first-rate equality, and it is essential for continuing the IDF as a people’s army, and is also essential for the continued success of the Israeli economy,” said Shelah.

Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry, who led the committee that came up with the original draft law outline, said that “for the first time since Israel’s inception, the fate of a Haredi draft dodger and a secular draft dodger will be the same, and the draft obligation will apply to the Haredi community as well. The age of the Tal law [which exempted Haredi yeshiva students from the draft] is over. There will be no more discrimination.”

Ilan Assayag
Olivier Fitoussi