Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon informed ultra-Orthodox Knesset members Wednesday that the army was willing to relax its conditions and accept rabbis' demands for yeshiva students arriving to receive the legal exemption from military service for men aged 22.
According to a letter sent from the minister's office, "If the haredi public's leaders join the move, we believe it will be possible to coordinate special separate days for a significant part of the population which will be defined as 'a day for yeshiva students reporting to the centers.'"
Ya'alon suggested that this format would be tried out over several days as soon as possible, in coordination with the Yeshiva Committee.
"The haredi candidates' arrival has been adjusted to their needs on a long series of issues, in order to allow us to implement the processes of IDF enlistment, service postponement and granting an exemption," the minister noted.
He added that the IDF believes that separate days for yeshiva students will allow the recruitment center to "focus its attention and resources" on them. He stressed, however, that "this joint activity will not affect the processes taking place at the recruitment center for the general public."
Concessions in return for cooperation
The defense minister expressed his willingness to make more compromises, but demanded in return that the rabbis help calm down the situation. "The IDF will be prepared to make further adjustments," he wrote, "as long as this is done with the haredi public leaders' cooperation and as long as they take responsibility."
Ya'alon was referring to the radical stance of some of the sector's leaders, including the Viznitz rebbe on the Hasidic side and Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach from the Lithuanian sector, who have ordered their students not to make any contact with the IDF and not to report to the recruitment centers under any circumstances.
Other rabbis have recently followed in the footsteps of the two haredi leaders, and the army authorities fear that the sides will break the rules of the game.
The haredi MKs received the minister's letter shortly before Agudath Israel's Council of Torah Sages convened to discuss the recruitment centers issue. According to estimate, the letter aimed to influence the decisions made by the council.
'Letter aims to soften radical approach'
According to haredi journalist and commentator Yisrael Cohen of the Kikar Hashabat news website, "In the past few months the radical voice in the Council of Torah Sages appeared to be growing stronger, but the semi-official letter from the defense minister's bureau is capable of stopping the flow and softening the rebbes' approach.
"It all depends on these agreements and cooperation," he added. "If the rebbes realize that these IDF officials and those facing them are 'men of their word,' the feeling will be mutual. On the other hand, the moment the army starts 'playing' with them, things will change and the rope will be torn once the Hasidic Council joins the call not to report to the recruitment centers."
This isn't the first time the army gives in to haredi demands in regards to the conditions at the recruitment centers. About two years ago, the IDF agreed that yeshiva students would be able to undergo medical checks at the HMOs instead of at the recruitment centers, in light of rabbis' objection to intimate examinations which were sometimes conducted by women.
The defense minister's bureau offered the following response: "In order to encourage haredim to enlist with the IDF, it has been decided to allow candidates for military service to report to the recruitment center at certain hours, in order to provide them with suitable conditions for the IDF recruitment process.
"In any event, the process will not affect girls or non-haredi candidates for military service."