Haredi Exemption Bill - Sept 21

Haredi Exemption Bill - Sept 21

A hearing on the Haredi Exemption bill is scheduled for Thursday, September 21. The bill seeks to extend downward from the current age 26 to age 21, the age at which Haredi yeshiva students can get permanent exemptions and need not serve in the Israeli army. Proponents of the bill claim that Haredi yeshiva learning is commensurate with army service. The government hopes that lowering the draft age will encourage Haredim to leave yeshiva and enter the workforce at a younger age.

The promised exemption bill has already been delayed several times, despite Likud’s signed guarantee and promises, said Agudat Yisrael Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf. The bill is the main reason the Haredi parties support the Coalition; aside from this bill, they have said they have no real interest in judicial overhaul.

Disgruntled Haredim, including United Torah Judaism and Shas, have now reiterated their insistence that the Knesset pass the Haredi military exemption before other judicial overhaul bills, or they will leave the coalition, bringing the government down, said Goldknopf.

Sticking points:

  • The Haredi are insisting on a clause that would prevent the court from later declaring it unconstitutional or overturning the law, or instituting it as a Basic Law for those reasons. It is doubtful that this will be popular, even if the Coalition is able to pass the rest of the bill.
  • The government has countered with the idea of adding a quota for yeshivas (similar to the previous law) that allow only a certain number of exemptions per yeshiva, but do not put sanctions on yeshivot that don't meet their quota.
  • PM Netanyahu more recently is considering a suggestion by former defense minister Benny Gantz, which would have everyone turning 18, including Haredim and Arabs, going through tzav rishon with the IDF, which would then decide whether to enroll them in the army of in national service. Salary and benefits would be allocated according to the type of service.
  • The IDF has put forward yet another counter-proposal, requiring enlistment by everyone for at least one year.
  • IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi has noted his opposition to the exemption bill, saying that Israel must continue the 'people's army' model, “Our position is clear, draft for all.”
  • Likud Defense Minister Yoav Gallant supports the bill on the condition that a simultaneous bill is passed giving additional pay raises and benefits to soldiers and veterans.
  • Kan public broadcast has said the Finance Ministry has no way to fund the additional pay for soldiers.
  • Not all of even Likud supports this bill. Times of Israel on Thursday reports that at least six Likud members have voiced their plan to veto.
  • The public backlash from voters may come even from right-wingers who otherwise support the government, but don't support draft-dodging.

The hearing is set for September 21. (The current IDF policy won't draft Haredi men until March 31, 2024.)