Early today, along strict party lines Israel’s parliament the Knesset passed an amendment to Israel’s military draft law. The amendment postpones all criminal penalties against haredi draft dodgers until at least 2023. Non-haredi Jewish Israelis, however, will continue to face criminal penalties if they dodge the draft.
Updated at 2:28 pm CST
Knesset Votes To Suspend All Criminal Penalties For Haredi Draft Dodgers
Shmarya Rosenberg • Failedmessiah.com
Early today, along strict party lines Israel’s parliament the Knesset passed an amendment to Israel’s military draft law. The amendment postpones all criminal penalties against haredi draft dodgers until at least until 2023, Arutz Sheva reported.
The vote was 60 to 45, meaning the smallest number of Knesset members possible for the amendment to pass voted for it.
All Arab Knesset members walked out before the vote, reportedly at the request of haredi Knesset members.
All other Jewish Israelis must serve in the IDF or in Israel’s civilian national service and if they refuse, they face criminal penalties which include prison.
But top haredi rabbis and politicians refuse to allow their followers to comply with the law and almost no actual haredim serve. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised haredi political parties as an inducement to join his coalition government – which likely could not exist without them – that no haredi yeshiva student who dodges the draft will face any criminal penalties for doing so.
Netanyahu’s previous government passed the draft law that mandated the penalties that were pushed off today, but that bill was created and backed by the centrist Yesh Atid Party which is no longer a part of Netanyahu’s coalition government.
The government continues its pattern of defining haredim very broadly to include ex-haredim, recent ba’al teshuvas, Sefardim from traditional but non-Orthodox families who attended Shas schools, haredi yeshiva dropouts, and right-wing Zionist Orthodox youth who want to join the “haredi” battalion because of the increased time provided for Torah study and prayer. The government then claims haredi enlistment in the IDF is growing, even though the numbers show that to be untrue. Because of this purportedly growing haredi enlistment, the government claims enforcing criminal penalties against haredim who dodge the draft would be counterproductive.
"From the outset, I thought that it was wrong to insist on criminal sanctions," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told the Knessest. "When the criminal sanctions were approved, the number of haredi men who enlisted for military service dropped. Unsurprisingly, the number of haredim enrolling for [secular] academic studies also dropped at the same time.”
Ya'alon also said greater haredi enlistment also brings more affinity with the state and with Zionism.
"One of the emotional moments in the last few years was when I saw a haredi man whom I knew from the [haredi Sabbath] demonstrations at Bar Ilan [street] in Jerusalem, standing and lighting a torch on Independence Day," Ya’alon claimed.
According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, Yair Lapid, the chairman of the Yesh Atid Party, challenged Ya'alon.
"What will I tell [my son, who is now serving in the IDF]? That his highest commander [Ya'alon] sold him out for coalition politics? You are lying at the expense of IDF soldiers. There is no logic here, just small, pathetic political corruption," Lapid said.
Haredi Member of Knesset Rabbi Eliezer Moses of the Ashkenazi haredi United Torah Judaism Party (UTJ) insisted keeping criminal penalties for haredim who dodge the draft would make it harder for these haredim to join the workforce. They'd have a criminal record, Moses (sometimes spelled "Mozes") said.
Another UTJ Member of Knesset, Rabbi Yisrael Eichler, dismissed the haredi draft issue with a wave of his hand by insisting Israel doesn't need a draft of anyone at all.
"Mandatory conscription has become a divisive factor [for the whole country], and we need to move to voluntary enlistment. The whole story of mandatory conscription is anachronistic," Eichler reportedly said.
The only coalition member who failed to vote for the amenedment was MK Oren Hazan of the ruling Likud Party. But Hazan didn't break party discipline; he was hospitalized because of an asthma attack and missed the vote.