Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided that a proposed military draft law currently under consideration will include criminal charges against ultra-Orthodox draft-dodgers, Hebrew media reported Wednesday morning.
The criminal penalties would begin in 2017, according to the terms of the bill.
The Shaked Committee, tasked with drafting a bill setting the parameters of Haredi army conscription, was scheduled to meet Wednesday morning for an initial vote on the final version of the proposal.
The body is expected to present a version for a final Knesset vote in March.
Rumors around the issue intensified Tuesday, as claims surfaced that Netanyahu had delayed the Shaked Committee’s vote, pushing off passage of the criminal penalties to a later date.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office rejected the rumors out of hand and said they had originated with the Jewish Home party, which was trying to drive a wedge between Netanyahu and the Yesh Atid party, a leading proponent of criminal penalties for Haredi draft dodgers.
At the same time, Shas MK Ariel Atias claimed his party was misled by Jewish Home.
“The story about the criminal sanctions has been finalized; all that remains is to see how it will be worded,” claimed Atias. “Now we understand that the Jewish Home cheated us this entire time, when they told us they were still fighting against the criminal issue, while they had already agreed on the matter with Yesh Atid.”
“Everything that happened on their side in recent days was nothing more than one big act,” he continued, “in order to show outwardly that they are fighting for us.”
On Wednesday, Hiddush, an Israeli NGO backing Haredi enlistment, called on the Shaked Committee to vote against the criminal sanctions, calling the idea an unrealistic proposal intended for political gain.
“Everyone knows that it will be impossible to throw thousands of yeshiva students in jail,” said Hiddush in a written statement, “and we are talking about a law for headlines and Facebook statuses that will be impossible to implement.”
Earlier this month, Lapid halted state payments to religious seminaries which house draft dodgers. This, along with the arrest of an ultra-Orthodox man who refused to enlist, sparked widespread protests throughout the country by thousands of Haredi demonstrators.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.