After the High Court decided to cut funding for yeshiva students who had ignored their military draft summons, the haredi public was sure that the ruling would have little real-world ramifications for them, but the finance minister has decided otherwise.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid
has instructed his office to halt all funds to yeshivas, even those already transferred, in bid to examine which funds were allocated to draft-dodging haredim.
A classroom of yeshiva scholars (Photo: Amit Shaabi)
The move is more inclusive than the original court ruling, which applies only to yeshiva students aged 18 to 20, who were served with enlistment orders beginning in August 2013, but had not reported to the recruitment center following Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's
decision to delay their draft.
Tuesday a source from the haredi party United Torah Judaism
said that "The budget for February was transferred (Monday) and by next month, there will be a new law – this interim order will be irrelevant."
But Lapid's decision seems to have shaken some of the community's confidence.
"This is just cruel. He's leaving us without money, even for those students who deserve it. Never before have funds been frozen after being already being released by the Finance Ministry."
After learning of the court's decision Lapid said his office would halt the transfer of future funds, but on Wednesday it was learned that some of the funds had already left the ministry to the 'clearing-house' from which they are then transferred to recipients.
Lapid then held an emergency assessment meeting, at the end of which he instructed the ministry's accountant general to stop the transfer of all funds, regardless of their current state or location.
In the meantime, the Education Ministry and the Defense Ministry have divided up the list of yeshiva students aged 18 to 20 and who enlistment was deferred since August, and are no longer eligible for State funding. Only after the examination by the two ministries will the funds be unfrozen and transferred to those still eligible.
While haredi MKs expressed their anger at the move, Lapid promised he was only following the High Court's ruling "wholly and meticulously."
The Knesset is expected to vote on a new bill regulating haredi enlistment – a draft of which was revealed Thursday morning by Yedioth Aharonoth.
The government-supported bill will replace the Tal Law, which has already expired and is expected to pass together with two other government sponsored bills – the Governability Bill (which makes it harder to pass no-confidence votes and raises the election threshold) and the Referendum Bill (which makes any peace accord contingent on a public referendum vote).
All three bills have the support of at least 61 (out of 120) MKs and will be voted on between March 10-12.
The proposed haredi enlistment bill – known as the Law for Defense Services –formulated by Minister of Science, Technology and Space (Yesh Atid)
Yaakov Peri, passed in its first reading in the Knesset in July.
But until the March vote, the bill is under work by a Knesset inner committee, led by Habayit Hayehudi
faction leader MK Ayelet Shaked. The bill underwent changes, and each section is expected to be voted upon starting next Monday before it passes on to a second and third reading. The major issue remaining is whether to criminally sanction haredim who refuse to enlist.