Gafni: Yeshiva students prefer jail to the draft (JERUSALEM POST) By JEREMY SHARON 05/02/12)
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Haredim will go to jail rather then get drafted into the army MK
Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism told the Knesset Foreign Affairs
and Security committee on Tuesday.
Gafni also claimed that despite the fact that Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman “loathe” each
other, neither of them really want to advance a general election but
were doing so simply to shorten the time Yair Lapid and Shaul Mofaz
have for preparing for them.
The committee hearing was called to decide whether or not the
proposals of the committee’s Working Group for the Implementation of
the Tal Law should be published or not, in light of the fact that the
High Court of Justice ruled the law unconstitutional in February.
Despite the law’s coming expiry on August 1, along with Gafni’s
objections, the Working Group decided to continue with its work and,
once complete, will present its final findings and recommendations.
Speaking to the issue of haredi enlistment in the army, Gafni, who
celebrated his sixtieth birthday on Tuesday, said that none of the
bills proposed thus far would solve the problem.
“Anyone who can see straight knows that it is impossible to injure
[someone who defers army service under the] Torato Omunato
framework,” said Gafni, in reference to the 2002 Tal Law which
legally mandated indefinite postponement of army service for full
time yeshiva students.
“At the end of the day, there won’t be any change, and in the worst
case scenario, yeshiva students will just sit in jail.”
Working group chairman MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) said that a great
responsibility lies on the shoulders of the panel, and that in the
coming months they would endeavor “with or without elections, to
coalesce a majority to pass a law mandating obligatory service, and
to halt attempts aimed at preserving the Tal Law under the pretext of
Plesner also vaunted the Kadima party’s proposal for a Tal Law
replacement, saying it would lead to real change of the current
There are currently 54,000 full-time yeshiva students who are able to
indefinitely postpone their military service through the terms of the
Tal Law, passed in 2002.
The current rate of haredi enlistment into the army stands at about
16 percent, as opposed to the national average of approximately 75
percent. Ultra-Orthodox Participation in national or civilian service
programs currently stands at roughly 11 percent, bringing the
percentage of haredim in some form of military or national service up
to about 27 percent of those of draft age.
The Ultra-Orthodox community and its leaders argue that the spiritual
well-being of the state is as important to its security as practical
defense. A large protest movement against the low level of haredi
enlistment has gathered pace this year, and has demanded mandatory
military or national service for all, including the ultra-Orthodox.
Gafni, the chairman of the Knesset’s Finance Committee, also pointed
out that the coalition agreements made when the present government
was formed included a specific section explicitly guaranteeing the
preservation of the status of yeshiva students.
“This chapter was signed by Yisrael Beytenu and Labor too, before it
split up,” Gafni noted.
As to the question of whether or not to publish the findings and
recommendations of the Working Group, Gafni said there was no point
since the main political parties have already proposed new bills on
MK Nissim Ze’ev of Shas, who was also present at the hearing,
proposed the establishment of ultra-Orthodox Hesder yeshivas to
advance the integration of haredim into the army. The Hesder yeshiva
system provide a framework for national-religious soldiers to combine
their military service with yeshiva study over a five year period.
Typically, the program constitutes a three and a half year period in
yeshiva and one and a half years in IDF training and active duty.
Ze’ev is an advocate of maintaining the Torato Omunato framework but
is also in favor of encouraging increased haredi enlistment. (© 1995-
2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/02/12)
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