New committee convenes to tackle universal draft

Former Shin Bet head Yaakov Peri chairs group tasked with integrating ultra-Orthodox and Arabs into IDF and national service

Ultra-Orthodox soldiers being sworn in to a religious IDF unit. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox soldiers being sworn in to a religious IDF unit. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

A new ministerial committee headed by former Shin Bet head Yaakov Peri tasked with drafting universal draft legislation held its first meeting on Sunday.

The committee was appointed by the cabinet last week, and consists of Peri, the minister of Science, Technology and Space (Yesh Atid) as the chairman, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud), Interior Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich (Yisrael Beytenu), Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) and Environment Minister Amir Peretz (Hatnua).

“In just under two months we’ll present the Knesset with a bill for [all citizens to] equally share the burden, and until then we’re all in for a lot of work,” Peri had said after the appointment was announced last week. The short time frame means that committee members and relevant ministries must dedicate themselves to the task and work together, he added.

One senior committee member told Channel 10 that the committee is “waiting for the IDF to establish specially designated routes to enable the ultra-Orthodox to enlist.” He explained that the goal is have the ultra-Orthodox serve in the Prison Service, Magen David Adom emergency services, fire services and other security apparatuses.

The dearth of ultra-Orthodox serving alongside the general population has long been a thorn in secular-religious relations within Israeli society. The committee will also look for ways to integrate Israeli Arabs into the IDF.

In February 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the Tal Law, which had granted sweeping exemptions from military or national service to ultra-Orthodox Israelis, was unconstitutional.

Following the ruling, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Knesset would draft a revised, more equitable law within months.

Last July, Netanyahu disbanded a committee headed by Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner that was seeking to draft a resolution to the issue, after some right-wing legislators resigned from the panel.

Aaron Kalman contributed to this report.

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