Yeshiva Students Get Reprieve From IDF Draft for Third Time This Year

Defense minister pushes conscription of Haredi students back to April; High Court expected to discuss issue this week.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Monday postponed once again the drafting of 1,800 yeshiva students who were to have joined the army at the end of this month. They are now due to be drafted in April.

This is the third time the drafting of the yeshiva students has been postponed. This time, as in August and November, the defense establishment said it is unreasonable to draft thousands of ultra-Orthodox into the Israel Defense Forces at a time when a bill is being debated in the Knesset, ostensibly soon to become law, which would allow the ultra-Orthodox to defer their army service until age 21. Even then, the defense establishment says, the new law would allow them to do national civilian service instead of their military service.

The defense establishment and the Justice Ministry had hoped for the bill to pass before having to explain to the High Court of Justice why the drafting of the yeshiva students has been delayed time after time. However, the High Court is to discuss the matter this week.

Government officials involved in the matter have been pushing to pass the bill before the end of December. According to an individual close to the matter, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently pressed representatives of the various coalition factions to move the legislation forward. According to the same source, Netanyahu also set a target date of two weeks from now for resolution of the outstanding issues involving the bill among the coalition factions.

The Knesset committee charged with monitoring the handling of the ultra-Orthodox draft, chaired by MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), is to begin discussions next week ahead of a vote on the various clauses of the bill. These clauses are based on the draft reform formulated by a committee headed by Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry (Yesh Atid).

Ceremony marking the end of basic training of a Nahal Haredi battalion.
Alex Levac