The government's approval of an IDF
draft exemption to ultra-Orthodox
yeshiva students caused a political uproar Sunday, with harsh criticism leveled at the decision from both the Left and the Right.
The exemption was approved by the ministers following a proposal by Defense Minister Ehud Barak
and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, to renew National Service draft for a limited period.
The exemption means to resolve the issue, following the expiration of Tal Law.
The government voted in favor of special National Service guidelines that will circumvent a High Court of Justice ruling on the matter and will see some 1,300 yeshiva students join the National Service in lieu of enlisting in the army.
The brief circulated among the ministers said that the amendment would be in effect until August of 2013; adding that it aims "To preserve trust vis-à-vis the haredi sector and prevent a shortage of National Service volunteers."
"The government's intention to circumvent the court and perpetuate a historical social wrong is beyond outrageous and has no legal merit," Hantuna Chairwoman Tzipi Livni said.
"The government – right before the elections – is choosing to spit in the face of the Zionist majority, people who serve in the IDF, who are called for reserve duty time and again, and who are no longer willing to abide this situation," she said.
MK Yohanan Plesner
(Kadima) agreed: "This is another attempt by the Netanyahu government to perpetuate the haredim's draft dodging, which the High Court of Justice itself says must change."
The Yesh Atid Party issued a statement saying that "The government's intention to approve an IDF service exemption for haredim under the guise of drafting a fraction of them to the ranks of the National Service is meant to throw sand in the public's eye and deceive the court.
"Tal Law effectively expired four months ago and now Netanyahu's government seeks to continue with this intolerable situation, where an entire sector fails to shoulder the burden."
said the statement, "Will never be party to a government that does not advocate universal service."
The move was equally criticized by the Right: Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett explained that "More and more haredim want to join the IDF. The government has to stop trying to buy time and create real solution that will enable them to enlist and share the burden."
Former head of the IDF Personnel Directorate Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Elazar Stern (Hatnua) lamented the decision: "Netanyahu's government missed a historic opportunity to solve the issue. With exemplary political conduct – and outrageous ideological conduct – this government has wasted any chance for resolution."
Shas' Eli Yishai fended off the criticism as hypocritical. "The reality is that there are thousands of haredim waiting in line for the Nahal Haredi and unfortunately the army isn't drafting them. The quota approval will prove how great the demand is," he said.
The director of the National Service Directorate, Sar-Shalom Jerby, said, "This decision effectively enables the recruitment to National Service of parents over the age of 22 whom the army does not want anyway. It's the best platform to integrating haredim in the work force and even in the academia."
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