Knesset panel to recommend heavy fines for ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers

Knesset panel to recommend heavy fines for ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers

Alternative to Tal Law will allow deferment to age 22, limit the number of exemptions for Torah scholars

Soldier and ultra-Orthodox man, shoulder to shoulder (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Soldier and ultra-Orthodox man, shoulder to shoulder (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ultra-Orthodox Israelis should be able to wait until age 22 before enlisting for the army or national service, a committee tasked with creating new rules for drafting the Haredi community is likely to recommend.

The Plesner committee, headed by MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), is expected to submit its recommendations in the next few weeks. Lawmakers are looking to pass new rules for drafting all Israelis into military or civilian service, after a court ruled that the Tal Law, which permitted the ultra-Orthodox to defer enlistment, could not be renewed.

The committee is expected to recommend that yeshiva students be allowed to receive an enlistment deferral for four years until age 22, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Wednesday. By that age, they will likely be married with children, and would therefore earn NIS 5,000 per month during their service, more than 10 times a typical draftee’s monthly salary.

However, in a move opposed by the prime minister and the various religious factions in the Knesset, the committee also plans to recommend imposing heavy individual sanctions on draft dodgers, including high fines and the cancellation of living subsidies. The recommendations will also likely include economic sanctions against religious institutions that fail to send their students for service.

The prime minister also opposes the committee’s intention to limit in advance the number of exemptions for religious study.

The panel will reportedly recommend that 20 percent of yeshiva students can be declared “prodigies” and be exempted from the draft, leading to an estimated 1,500 exemptions per year.

Plesner said Wednesday that any solution that does not include the levying of heavy individual sanctions and rigid quotas for exemptions simply will not stand.

Speaking to representatives of the so-called Suckers Tent movement which advocates spreading out the burden of military service to all Israelis, Plesner expressed doubt as to whether or not all members of the current governing coalition will accept the committee’s upcoming recommendations.

For his part, Netanyahu met with several Shas MKs and asked them if there were any individual sanctions that they felt ready to accept.

Ultra-Orthodox political parties have consistently taken a stand against any law that would require mass enlistment of yeshiva students, while Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he seeks a solution to the issue that would be agreeable to all sides.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Wednesday that his party will oppose any draft legislation that doesn’t require either military or civilian service for all Israelis.




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