Charedi battle to stay out of the IDF is ripping Israel apart

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 13, 2014
Charedim protest over the draft last week (Photo: Flash 90)

Charedim protest over the draft last week (Photo: Flash 90)

The new national-service law, now in its final legislative stages, is causing tension both within the coalition and the strictly Orthodox community.

A committee headed by Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked began voting this week on clauses including the quotas of Charedim required to join the army and the length of service for other sections of the population.

While there is consensus within the coalition over drafting yeshiva students, many details are controversial.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid has warned that if yeshiva students who refuse to enlist do not face criminal charges, his party, Yesh Atid, will leave the government.

Habayit Hayehudi oppose criminalisation and, for now, have the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said this week: “I don’t believe we will reach a situation where people will sit in jail for studying Torah.”

On Monday, the Shaked committee voted to shorten army service for men — currently three years — by four months. This caused an outcry from the army which claims that it cannot fill its units unless a sufficient number of Charedi men join up; service for women (currently two years) is extended by four months; and the service period for yeshiva students extended from 17 months to two years.

The committee, however, has decided not to extend the service of either group due to the opposition of Habayit Hayehudi. Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, who is very critical of the Shaked committee, is expected to demand a second vote on the mens’ service period.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court president Asher Grunis refused to postpone last week’s ruling by the Court that yeshivas whose students have deferred their draft should have their funding cut off.

The followers of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, head of Maalot Ha’Tora Yeshiva in Jerusalem, reacted with violent protests. They accused the leader of the “Lithuanian” stream, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, of holding secret talks with the Shaked committee.

Last updated: 5:45pm, February 13 2014