Likud to Present New Proposal on ultra-Orthodox Military Draft to Lapid, Bennett

The plan is more flexible than Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid’s demand: a maximum quota of exceptional Torah scholars who will be allowed to remain in yeshiva, while all other young Haredi men are drafted into IDF.

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The Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition negotiating team is expected to present a new proposal for drafting ultra-Orthodox men when negotiators meet with the Yesh Atid team Monday for a second round of talks.

The plan will also be presented to Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, who will be meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time on Monday since last month’s election.

The proposal was drawn up by the head of the National Economic Council, Prof. Eugene Kandel, and is described as an “improved model” of an earlier proposal made by Minister Moshe Ya’alon, though no details were released.

It is presumably more flexible than Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid’s demand: a maximum quota of exceptional Torah scholars who will be allowed to remain in yeshiva, while all other young Haredi men are drafted into the Israel Defense Forces.

Senior officials close to the Likud negotiating team said this new plan would be the point of departure for coalition talks with all the other parties.

The Kandel model will be significantly more equitable, said a senior Likud official.

“The model presented by Yesh Atid is a model that can’t be implemented by consensus and without coercing the Haredi population, which is why we cannot adopt it,” he said. “By contrast, the Kandel outline is one that can be implemented and that can be promoted to the various factions.”

Meanwhile, Haaretz has learned that another proposal for recruiting Haredi men into the IDF is being circulated by two former members of the Plesner committee, the panel that last year tried to formulate legislation governing the draft of Haredi men.

Yedidya Stern, a Bar-Ilan law professor and the vice president of the Israel Democracy Institute, and attorney Haim Zicherman, an IDI research fellow, have been quietly approaching leaders of Haredi groups with their proposal. The two are hoping that even if the ultra-Orthodox don’t expressly support their proposal, they will at least not oppose it, since there is no element of forced conscription.

Under the plan, Haredi yeshiva students would have their induction deferred until age 22, at which point they would be called to the draft board but not forced to enlist. If the IDF’s quotas for Haredim are not filled by volunteers, no individual Haredim would suffer any penalties but yeshiva budgets would be reduced “significantly.”

The main elements of the plan have been presented to the leader of the “Lithuanian” (non-Hasidic) Haredim, Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, who has not dismissed the plan. The leader of the Jerusalem Lithuanian faction, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, has sharply rejected it.

Meanwhile, Bennett’s meeting with Netanyahu is set for noon Monday at the Kirya military compound in Tel Aviv.

The announcement of the meeting came after Bennett issued another apology for comments he had made during the election campaign about the prime minister’s wife, Sara.

Bennett worked as Netanyahu’s chief of staff for 18 months, starting in 2006. His reported difficulties with Netanyahu’s wife made headlines when Bennett joked in a television interview conducted shortly before the election that he and Sara “had been in a terrorism class together.” Referring to the terrorism class joke, Bennett told Army Radio Sunday: “My joke about the ‘terror course,’ which would have been better left unsaid, was used to attack her and I am sorry about that. If someone wants to criticize Netanyahu’s policies, he is the address, not her.”

Bennett said the delay in scheduling the meeting with Netanyahu was caused by technical exigencies.

“I represent a huge public seeking real solutions to the problem of sharing the burden [of military service] and incorporating the ultra-Orthodox into the government, as well as economic issues solutions that must come quickly,” Bennett said.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, left, and Habayit Hayehudi head Naftali Bennett at the swearing-in ceremony for new Knesset members on Feb. 5, 2013.Credit: Emil Salman
PM Benjamin Netanyahu waving to supporters, January 23, 2013.Credit: AFP