Ultra-Orthodox army draftees who dodge service will face financial punishments if the recommendations of a Knesset panel are adopted, the head of the committee said Thursday.
Yohanan Plesner, who is drafting legislation to replace an expiring law that allowed ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students to defer army service, told his Kadima party’s Knesset faction that he would also recommend levying fines against schools that harbored draft dodgers.
“Everyone serves, everyone performs a meaningful service — the law will call for enlistment,” Plesner said as he explained the thought process guiding the committee. “Anyone who breaks the law will face the option of sanctions.”
The Knesset has until August to come up with an alternative to the Tal Law, which was declared unconstitutional by the High Court earlier this year. Legislators are looking to make army or civilian service mandatory across Israeli society, including among ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities, which have the option of an alternative national service.
Plesner also said he aimed to more than double the number of non-Jewish Israelis in non-military national service, from the current 2,400 per year to 6,000 by 2016.
Some members of the ultra-Orthodox community have vowed to ignore any new laws, saying they would sooner go to jail than enlist.
Plesner’s comments came shortly after it was reported that the committee was seeking to level heavy fines against draft dodgers.
Explaining the practicalities of a situation in which ultra-Orthodox men would be enlisted in the IDF, Plesner said the special needs stemming from a religious way of life could be met by “forming new and special brigades,” modeled after one such brigade, the Nahal Haredi, which has been active in the army for a number of years already.
Opening hesder yeshivas, which combine service with Torah study, would be one course of action.
“Those who don’t serve in the army brigades will serve in the police and rescue services,” Plesner said.
Plesner added that the committee was looking to link government support given to religious institutions with their cooperation with the draft orders. “A yeshiva with students who have not enlisted by the age of 22 will face sanctions,” he said, adding that the institution would receive financial benefits for every student who started serving at a younger age.
“Practically, morally and legally, the onus must be on the individual,” Plesner said. “Without placing obligations on the individual, we won’t meet our goals for recruitment,” he explained, “and that is what some people are still arguing about.”