Knesset passes draft law requiring haredi men to do military service

Israel’s Knesset passed a law requiring haredi Orthodox yeshiva students to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

Haredi Orthodox Jews protest draft bill on March 2 in Jerusalem. photo/jta-flash90-yaakov naumi

The controversial law, which removes most exemptions for haredi Orthodox yeshiva students, passed March 12 by a vote of 65 to 1. The single vote against the law was from the Jewish Home party’s Yoni Chetboun, who was sanctioned by the coalition for his vote.

The opposition parties boycotted the vote after the government coalition limited debate on the bill, as well as on two other controversial measures: the Governance Act, which was passed March 11 and raises the election threshold to 3.25 percent, and the referendum bill, which would require any peace deal that would cede land to be submitted to a referendum. It was scheduled for a vote on March 13.

Under the military draft law, haredi men would be criminally charged for evading the draft, but the penalties would not go into effect until 2017. In addition, draft orders for haredi men up to age 26 would not go into effect until up to a year after the law is implemented.

The Tal Law, which allowed haredi men to defer army service indefinitely, was invalidated by the Supreme Court in February 2012 and expired that August. Haredi yeshiva students since then have had their drafts deferred.

An estimated 500,000 haredi Orthodox men protested against the new law in Jerusalem on March 2. A similar and smaller prayer rally was held in New York last weekend.

“Israel today lost the right to call itself a Jewish or a democratic nation,” Moshe Gafni of the haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism said after the vote. “The haredi community will not forget this and it will not forgive [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his partners for trampling on the delicate fabric that binds the different communities in Israel.”

The law fulfills a campaign promise by Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party. — jta