Israeli Defense Ministry Panel Urges Financial Penalties for Haredi Draft Shortfalls

Recommendations come amid disputes in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition over how to meet a September court deadline for a new enlistment law

Haredi men block road in anti-draft protest, Jerusalem, March 2017.
Emil Salman

Ultra-Orthodox yeshivas will be required to meet at least 95% of their quota for army recruits within three years or face increasingly severe financial penalties in the form of government aid they receive, according to the recommendations of a Defense Ministry committee.

The recommendations, which come as the government wrestles with a September deadline set by the High Court of Justice to come up with a plan for drafting Haredi men, were given to Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu early this week.

Release of the recommendations had been delayed by the more than two weeks due to a dispute in the coalition over the issue of sanctions. Lieberman wanted to impose the sanctions but Haredi parties, led by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman oppose them.

The panel said that if the yeshivas fail to meet the quota, the penalties should grow increasingly severe.

>> The unlikely alliance between Israeli conscientious objectors and an anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox sect 

Thus in the third and fourth year after the law has been enacted, the sanctions would be equal to the short fall. For example an institution that is 8% short of its quota will see aid cut by 8%.

In the fifth and sixth year, the reduction would be twice the rate of the yeshiva’s quota shortfall. In subsequent years the ratio would rise to three times and to four times by the 10th year.

The proposal, which has not been shown to anyone else in the cabinet , calls for ultra-Orthodox army recruitment to grow by 8% annually over the next three years to reach 4,967 by 2021, after which the pace of the increase would slow to reach 6,844 by 2027.

After the first decade, the growth in draft numbers should then be in line with the natural increase of the Haredi population. The quotas would include men serving in the Israel Defense Force or civilian national service.

In addition, the committee said the age at which Haredi men become exempt from army service altogether should be raised to 28 from 24. The panel also said the army should ensure there are service options appropriate for ultra-orthodox recruits, including training programs to prepare them for the job market after they are demobilized.