The Knesset plenum approved Monday night amendment no. 26 to the law for haredi enlistment, or Equal Service Law, which delays mandatory enlistment to the IDF of full-time yeshiva students until 2023.
Forty-nine MKs voted in favor of the bill in its third and final reading, while 36 opposed.
The Equal Service Law, as it was passed in the 19th Knesset, stipulated that increasing numbers of full-time ultra-Orthodox students would be required to enlist every year until 2017, when all such students would be required to serve, aside from 1,800 exceptional students who would be given an exemption.
According to the amendment, the date for mandatory haredi enlistment will be pushed back to 2020 .Between 2020 and 2023, full-time yeshiva students would be obligated to serve in either military or civilian service, but the defense minister would have the authority to exempt yeshiva students even if the government targets are not met. In 2023, the coalition will either have to extend the law or let it expire.
As part of the original law, yeshiva students who fail to report for duty would be liable for criminal prosecution as draft-dodgers. However, the new amendment overturns the penalties against all yeshiva students, and states that the defense minister be given the authority to determine how to proceed if the quotas aren’t met. The new law also effectively eliminates the full implementation of the law, leaving the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox students after 2023 entirely to the discretion of the defense minister.
The document accompanying the current bill said the original law ”aroused strong resistance within the haredi public, and its implementation raised the fear that the positive process… which indicated a steady and gradual increase in the number [of haredim] who enlist… would be hurt.”
MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, presented the legislation to the plenum: ”The government feared that the strong resistance within the haredi public to [the previous version of the law] would lead to us not reaching our recruitment targets, and thus not implementing the essence of the law. Therefore, the government believes that it is possible to continue towards reaching the [recruitment] targets in the framework of a change in the rules of dialogue and on the basis of cooperation with the haredi public.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp) said: ”Today we are witnessing a huge social process within the haredi public which is above and beyond any law, and we see the recruitment quotas the reality achieves. Regretfully, the [revised] law takes this process backwards. While the previous law created significant barriers which we opposed, this law [indicates] a general exemption. All those who say haredim are not needed in army service know this is false. This law has tools that may create an anti-social and anti-integrative process. We believe in social processes, not exclusion or arrogance.”
MK Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beitenu) called the new law ”unequal” and said it ”simply separates two segments of the population.” He added: ”If the son of the defense minister dodges army service, Military Police will take him to prison. If the son of a haredi MK dodges [the draft], he will go to study and he will also receive a scholarship.”
”When we speak of this government, the words `mission` and `determination` are irrelevant. Words such as `foolishness`,` opportunism` and `weakness` are more suitable. The vast majority of Likud voters supports equal share of the burden, capital punishment for terrorists and banning [MK] Hanin Zoabi from the Knesset,” Liberman stated.