Haredi lawmakers table bill treating Torah study at par with military service

United Torah Judaism legislators say Netanyahu committed to enshrining exemption of yeshiva students from IDF service into law as part of coalition agreement; Gallant asserts Torah not equal to serving in the defense of the country

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party on Tuesday proposed a bill that would treat Torah study the same as military service.
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Authors of the law said it was in line with the coalition agreement struck with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party during negotiations on the establishment of the government.
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סיעת אגודת ישראל מתכנסת בביתו של יו״ר יהדות התורה, שר הבינוי והשיכון הרב יצחק גולדקנופף
סיעת אגודת ישראל מתכנסת בביתו של יו״ר יהדות התורה, שר הבינוי והשיכון הרב יצחק גולדקנופף
Members of the United Torah Judaism Party
The proposed legislation states that since the study of the Torah is of vital importance to the State of Israel, those who undertake it for an extensive period of time would be considered as having served the nation.
The ultra-Orthodox lawmakers said that they intend to bring the bill to a vote after the summer recess following the government's failure to enshrine into law the exemption of yeshiva students from military service. Netanyahu made a commitment to his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners that legislation would pass ahead of the Knesset vote on the national budget bill but did not live up to his promise.
A previous draft bill that allowed yeshiva students to avoid military service expired last April and was earlier ruled unconstitutional and discriminatory by the Supreme Court in a 2017 decision. The government then requested time to legislate a new bill but failed to do so amid recurring election cycles.
After the Likud Party rushed to issue a statement claiming such legislation would not be advanced, ultra-Orthodox lawmakers said they expected Netanyahu to fulfill his commitments. In a curt message to the prime minister, they said they would not support his plan to remove Supreme Court oversight on Knesset legislation – another component of Netanyahu's push to restrict the power of the courts - if their bill is not advanced.
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הפגנות חרדים בבני ברק
הפגנות חרדים בבני ברק
Police use water cannon against ultra-Orthodox men protesting the arrest of a draft dodger last year
(Photo: Reuters)
Opposition leader Yair Lapid condemned the proposed bill. "One day after the coalition passed its law to limit the reasonability clause, Israel's most irresponsible government ever is beginning to celebrate at a cost to all of us," Lapid said. "This government of destruction that accused volunteers to service in the reserves of desertion of the military, dares now to consider a bill giving legal cover for draft dodgers."
Gadi Eizenkot, a former IDF chief of staff and a member of the National Unity Party, said the proposed legislation would be a fatal blow to the IDF's role as the people's army and must be rejected.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stressed the importance of military service to the country. "Torah study is an important facet that preserves us as a people and I hold it in high regard," Gallant said. "It is important to remember- there is no place to equate military service with Torah study," he said.
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