There Are Free Meals - for the Haredim

Does anyone genuinely believe it will be possible to examine where the money is going to and who indeed is showing up to serve?

"There are no free meals," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced this week when he tried to explain why he was forced to cut the budget and raise taxes. He meant to say that if expenditure is raised on the one hand there have to be cuts on the other, to avoid falling into a deep deficit.

But Netanyahu forgot to say that there is another meaning to "free meals." Those are the meals he has been dishing out for the past three and a half years to the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox]. Netanyahu gave them an excellent coalition agreement that includes generous extras for the yeshivas and the students who study there. He allows them not to serve in the army, not to work, not to pay taxes and to live at the expense of the taxpayers - that is to say, to eat free meals with a large appetite.

The most annoying of these free meals are those that relate to serving in the Israel Defense Forces. It has to be clear that what is behind the Haredi struggle against being drafted is not the fear about dubious kashrut measures but something much more important - fear for their lives. They simply don't want to endanger themselves. They feel superior to the rest of the nation as if they were born into the priestly sector, and therefore it is appropriate that the dumb secular and Zionist religious youth sacrifice themselves on their behalf. And if you don't believe that, go to Bnei Brak and hear with your own ears how the youth there say: "Do you think we're crazy, to fight for your Zionist state?"

When Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz joined the government he said that his purpose was to achieve equality in sharing the burden. But the moment he understood they were making fun of him, he left and fervently declared: "We won't allow the prime minister to make the disgraceful draft dodging kosher."

But the truth is that both paths - that of Mofaz and that of Netanyahu - make draft dodging acceptable. They are both bad to the same extent. Both need to be thrown into the garbage can of history.

Mofaz and Netanyahu speak about "conscription," but they are defaming the word. In Israel, conscription means nothing else but to the Israel Defense Forces, for three difficult and demanding years, and not to a "national service" of four hours a day, teaching boys how to read the haftarah for their bar mitzvah. The moment there is no danger, no risk to lives, no wounded, no dead and no reserve duty for 25 years, there is no conscription - it is a mere summer camp.

This is not the way to "share the burden" but rather the way to expand and perpetuate the excessive rights of the Haredim. It is worse than the Tal Law on enlistment.

"National service" is also a gigantic waste of pubic funds. In effect, it is just another channel for sending billions of shekels from the state coffers to the Haredi sector. Does anyone genuinely believe it will be possible to examine where the money is going to and who indeed is showing up to serve? After all, even today tax officials are afraid of going into Bnei Brak. The same is also true for policemen.

It is also clear that with neither of these paths will a Haredi youth enlist in the army for significant service. After all, at the age of 23 (according to Mofaz ) or 26 (according to Netanyahu ) they are already married and have four to six children after being brainwashed in the kolel (where the married men study ). They will be too expensive for the IDF and it won't be possible to prepare them for life in the army.

If that is the case, why don't Mofaz and Netanyahu propose that they be conscripted at the age of 18? Because this is merely one big deception. Both Mofaz and Netanyahu propose economic sanctions for those who refuse to be enlisted or to attend the "national service" summer camp. So why do secular young men who refuse to serve have to go to Military Prison 4? This is blatant discrimination and there is only one solution to it for the secular youth. When they are inducted, secular 18-year-olds must demand only one thing - that their service be deferred for five to eight years so that they can think it over, study or get married, and then decide whether it is worth their while to enlist in the army, go to national service or merely pay a fine.

The IDF will try to send them to Prison 4 but they will appeal to the High Court of Justice. The court will have no alternative but to uphold their demands because, after all, the court rulings are based on values of equality and justice, and the blood of secular young men is no less red than that of the Haredim.

And if the argument is raised that there will be no army like that, and how will we be able to fight our enemies, then we will say: That's precisely the intention. That is exactly the way to explain to the politicians that the stupid secular sector is starting to revolt. It is refusing to go on providing the Haredim with "free meals."