Peri Committee plan calls for criminal prosecution of ultra-Orthodox who don’t register for draft, extends length of Hesder track
By GAVRIEL FISKE, GOI May 23, 2013, 4:39 pm 1
The Peri Committee on Thursday submitted for Knesset review the government’s plan for universal conscription, which, if passed, promises to significantly change the army’s relationship with Israel’s ultra-Orthodox citizens.
The bill would require ultra-Orthodox 18-year-old men and women to register for service, but if they are engaged in full-time Torah study allow them to defer it until age 21, at which time they will be forced to choose whether to enlist in the IDF or register for national or civil service.
Those who defer their service will have to be registered at yeshivot whose student bodies are subject to regular government auditing. Yeshivas that receive state funding and register their students for service deferment will also be required to introduce vocational training into their curriculum.
Individuals who do not register for the draft will be subject to criminal prosecution, as will yeshiva heads whose institutions do not comply with the new law. The bill also promises financial incentives and penalties for yeshivas according to their compliance with the registration rules.
The bill still allows for 1,800 top Torah scholars to be totally exempted from service per annum, far below the estimated 7,000-8,000 ultra-Orthodox 18-year-olds who do not currently register each year.
The committee’s recommendations also contain some general changes for the IDF, including a shortening of service for males from 36 to 32 months, and an extension of service for females to 28 months from 24. The plan also gradually extends and expands the Hesder yeshiva program, which combines Torah study with military training and will be an available option for ultra-Orthodox recruits.
Most of the changes would roll out in 2016, including the criminal prosecution of individuals who do not register for the draft, allowing for a transitional period to built up the bureaucratic and physical infrastructure needed to implement the changes.
The bill sets clear recruitment numbers for the ultra-Orthodox, to be gradually increased, beginning this year with the goal of 2,000 registrations for the IDF and another 1,300 for national and civil service. The bill also implements a 6,000-per-year recruitment goal for Israeli Arabs into civil service.
The bill is to be debated on Sunday at the weekly cabinet meeting, then passed to the Ministerial Legislative Committee, which will in turn pass it on for a preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum.
MK Uri Ariel, a member of the Ministerial Legislative Committee, said that a clause in the bill that seeks to lengthen the military service portion of the Hesder yeshiva track to two years (up from 16 months) was “completely opposite” to the coalition agreement upon which the the current government was founded. He said that his Jewish Home party would oppose the bill until it is modified to conform with previous agreements.