The committee, which was purposed to draft a law to replace the expired Tal Law, was headed by Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid), and was constantly followed by fear of rage within the haredi community and threats of mass protests. Two months of intensive discussions with ministers, IDF representatives, the Justice Ministry and the Civil Service Authority among others, led to a comprehensive reform in military recruitment.
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According to the bill, at the end of a three-year transition period, the haredi society should also bear the burden of army service, which is supposed to be shortened for all men from 36 months of mandatory service to 32. Women's service will be extended from 24 to 28 months.
The extensive reform includes recruitment incentives, sanctions for draft evaders and yeshivas, an enforcement system and one crucial bottom line: As of August 1, anyone aged 18 will be obligated to serve the country either in military or civil service at the end of a deferment period allowed for Torah study until the age of 21. To compare, the Plesner Committee, established in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's previous term and its recommendations were not accepted, proposed postponement until the age of 22.
Gradually, and after the transition period, the committee aims to reach high recruitment rates by 2016: Recruiting 5,200 of 8,000 haredim in a cycle (65%, for military and civil service). Exemption will be given to 1,800 exceptional Torah scholars, and 1,000 others are expected to "drop out" due to medical and other reasons. The Plesner Committee discussed 1,500 exemptions in every cycle, yet the Yesh Atid proposal claims that "very few" will be exempt.
Peri with Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
This coming Sunday, in a long meeting expected to go on into the night, the ministers are expected to approve the proposal items one by one, and then the bill will be raised to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, after which it will be submitted for further proceedings in the Knesset.
Personal responsibility of yeshiva heads
Every 17-year-old military service candidate is already bound to report for registration and examination (first notice). The new bill proposes creating a center for haredi absorption within the defense system.
Not reporting to duty will lead to criminal sanctions provided by law. In addition, a 17-year-old not reporting will not be able to be included in future unique yeshiva programs (such as service deferment) and will not be budgeted for yeshiva studies from age 18.
The bill states that in the final outline, service postponement will be given solely from age 18 to 21 for Torah study.
The new law bears personal liability on the yeshiva heads for the first time. Service deferment will be subject to yeshiva students and heads filing statements that the student is in fact studying, and committing to reporting any condition changes during that period of time. Filing a false affidavit would be a criminal offense.
In addition, the yeshiva heads will be obligated to take attendance and submit periodic reports to the IDF on those who postponed their service. Whoever was deferred from service to "study Torah" will be obligated to complete to 45 hours of yeshiva studies a week. However, in order to include haredim in the workforce, during periods in which yeshiva students will receive professional training (by the Ministry of Economy), they will only be obligated to complete to 30 hours of studying a week.
Moreover, it will be prohibited to work at the time of service postponement (even beyond studying hours), and yeshiva students will not be allowed out of country.
Will enforcement work?
After the deferment, the program seeks to require every yeshiva student to report to a haredi absorption center, located in the main haredi cities. The IDF will choose who to recruit and who to send to civil service. Anyone whose civil service is terminated will be returned to the army and obligated in service.
(Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
The defense minister, assisted by a list served by yeshiva committee heads, will decide who would be those 1,800 "prodigies" that would continue to be exempt in every cycle. If the yeshiva heads will not cooperate, the bill states, the minister will determine the recipients of the exemption. In any case, the exempt will be obligated to continue studying in the yeshiva until the age of 26.
In light of the dramatic changes, the bill requires the establishment of an enforcement and supervision mechanism, which will be vital in reaching the high goals of recruitment rates. As for locating yeshiva dropouts – the IDF will be assisted by the enforcement mechanism, and yeshiva heads will be asked to transfer a financial guarantee in order to prevent false affidavits regarding the number of students.
Protesting haredi recruitment in Jerusalem (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
A report will be handed every six months to the Knesset Committee for Promoting Equal Share of the Burden and also to a Knesset committee to be formed for this purpose. The Education Ministry will provide the IDF with information on audits conducted in the different yeshivas.
What are the incentives and sanctions?
- Budget cuts for yeshivas (for every 10% margin from the target recruitment goal, 10% of overall yeshiva budget will be cut)
- Financial incentives for yeshivas with a high recruitment rate
- Continued budget transfer for students leaving the yeshivas for the service (financial rates will depend on meeting targets)
- A recruited yeshiva student will still be counted in order to reach minimum students required at the yeshiva, until a year after his recruitment
- Personal statements by student and yeshiva head: False affidavits and violation of conditions will be considered a criminal offense
- Possibility of imposing fines for failure to report
- Failure to report after deferment or dropping out of the yeshiva will result in immediate recruitment.
Another controversial issue raised in the Committee is that of the national-religious hesder yeshivas. Service time for members of the program will be initially extended from 16 to 17 months. At the end of the transition period (July 2016) and for three years, the service will be gradually extended (two-three months every year), so that at the end it would stand on 24 months. The hesder yeshiva program will be open for the haredi community as well.
In regards to the civil service, which is expected to grow significantly in scope (today it is at 1,100 spots in every cycle), a special authority dealing with environment, health, homeland security and immigrant absorption will be established, and 200 spots will be allocated for education outside the community. Steps for increasing Arab recruitment were also suggested.
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