“After 65 years, today we are bringing to a vote the bill that will increase equality in sharing the burden,” Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu said today ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting, where a bill requiring eligible chareidi men to report for military duty or civilian service was approved by a majority of 14 to 4.
“We will make the change gradually, taking full consideration of the special needs of the charedi public,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu presented two main objectives: integrating young charedim into the Israel Defense Forces and various national religious programs and subsequently into the workforce.
“I attach a great deal of importance to involving them (charedim) and Israel’s Arab citizens in sharing the national burden, and the current proposal does address the issue, but I feel that it isn’t complete yet,” Netanyahu said. “We will have to continue dealing with the matter.”
United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush, in an interview on Israel Radio, said the bill was a disaster, and that the only reason Israeli Arabs weren’t included in it was because the government feared that if it did, the Arab sector would explode in violence.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid also addressed the issue, describing the vote as historic.
“After 65 years, we are righting the wrong of inequality in sharing the burden,” Lapid told the cabinet. “It is for the good of the charedi community and for the good of Israeli society. There will be true equality after this cabinet meeting. This is a historic day.
“This issue has toppled governments and ended political careers,” Lapid said. “Today, three months after this government was sworn in, we are making a historic change. This is a big thing for everyone.”
Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, who headed the committee that formulated the current draft proposal, also remarked at the meeting that “this is a historic law.”
“The state of Israel has been dealing with a sensitive problem for 65 years. It is a very social problem that I hope very much that with [the bill’s] approval we will witness yeshiva students enlisting and volunteering to perform civilian service,” Peri said. “We will build a more egalitarian, just and true society. I am sure that the cabinet members understand the gravity of the responsibility that is on our shoulders.”
According to the Peri committee proposal, starting in 2017 all eligible charedi men over the age of 18 will be expected to report at the IDF induction centers for enlistment, excluding 1,800 students who will be granted exemptions. The proposal allows for three-year deferment of service, after which each individual will have to decide whether they wish to serve in the IDF or a civilian program.
The proposal states further that charedi students studying at hesder yeshivos – which incorporate military service and Torah study – will be expected to serve 17 months, while other charedim will be expected to serve 24 months. Secular soldiers will continue to serve 36 months.
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein already issued a lengthy legal opinion on the issue last week, arguing that the proposal did not adhere to the principle of equal rights. However, he did remark that the proposal was in fact constitutional and that it would likely not be overturned by the High Court of Justice as long as it was limited by a predetermined time frame after which the issue would be revisited.
Read more at Israel Hayom.