Haredim Decry New Military Draft Bill That Does Not Include Arabs

Bill planned to replace the Tal Law, which was recently declared unconstitutional by the High Court of Justice.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Amos Harel
Amos Harel

The Justice Ministry is working on an arrangement for drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews, but not Arabs - angering ultra-Orthodox MKs who fear that this would prevent the formation of a Haredi-Arab coalition on draft deferrals.

The Tal Law, which deferred military service for yeshiva students, was recently declared unconstitutional by the High Court of Justice.

Deputy Attorney General Mike Balas has written to the Knesset committee tasked with finding alternatives to the law that "for those who are not ultra-Orthodox, there is no legal obligation to offer an alternative arrangement to the existing one."

Haaretz has obtained a copy of the document, which outlines the legal aspects of the new arrangement and analyzes the High Court decision revoking the Tal Law. The Haredi members of the committee, headed by MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima ), were furious to learn that the new arrangement would not apply to Arabs and religious, non-ultra-Orthodox women.

The Haredi newspaper Yated Neeman reported that Deputy Minister Yaakov Litzman and MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism ) had met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protest Balas' letter.

"The committee will have to decide whether it wants a solution only to the yeshiva students' obligations or a wider arrangement addressing other groups that don't serve [in the Israel Defense Forces] such as Arab men and women, as well as Jewish religious women," Balas wrote.

The debate on enlisting ultra-Orthodox men has been under way for many years, while the issue of enforcing national service on Arabs has only come up relatively recently, he says.

The Haredi MKs apparently fear that if the committee adopts Balas' suggestion, it would be impossible to form an ad hoc Haredi-Arab coalition against the new arrangement. If the arrangement does not apply to Arabs, the Arab parties will not join forces with the ultra-Orthodox MKs to sabotage it.

The document says the new arrangement must take into account certain precepts to ensure it upholds the principle of equality, in case certain groups petition the High Court against it.

For example, the arrangement must include clear numerical goals for recruiting ultra-Orthodox men and the methods for obtaining them. Draft solutions may not consist of abbreviated military service of two to three months that were devised for Haredim 27 and older.

The committee is expected to submit its recommendations for a successor to the Tal Law by the end of the month, with an eye to passing the new law by the end of July, before the Knesset's summer recess.

The head of the Hiddush NGO for religious freedom and equality, Rabbi Uri Regev, said the High Court had ruled that yeshiva students would no longer be given the right to choose and must serve in the IDF. "Any solution that fails to uphold that [obligation] will not only be rejected with disgust by the public but will be blatantly unconstitutional," he said.

"The committee has no authority to promote an arrangement that does not include the duty to serve .... The committee's report must provide a historic solution to the discrimination, not a temporary answer to the coalition's stability."

Read this article in Hebrew

Ultra-Orthodox soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces.

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