Still no sign of mass Charedim in Israeli army

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 19, 2012
Charedi teens handcuffed themselves in Jerusalem in protest at the draft

Charedi teens handcuffed themselves in Jerusalem in protest at the draft

In less than two weeks, on August 1, the Tal Law, which regulated the exemption of Charedi yeshivah students from national service will cease to exist, as the High Court ruling that deemed it unconstitutional comes into effect.

That does not mean, however, that thousands of strictly Orthodox 18-year-olds will be marched to boot camp or arrested by military police - not yet.

Every new soldier drafted into the IDF already has a place in a unit where he (or she) will serve, and the army's personnel planning begins two years before the new soldiers don their uniforms for the first time.

The Personnel Branch does not take young Charedi men into consideration, since only a small handful have ever joined up and, as a result, it would take at least a year to prepare places for even half of them.

The IDF would be glad of extra soldiers but it needs time to open up new units and enlarge existing ones. Additionally, the unique requirements of these soldiers will have to be taken into consideration. But, as it is, the army will wait for instructions from the government first before committing resources.

It is not clear what the government plans to do. On Wednesday, a law tabled by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party, to draft all Israeli citizens, including Charedim and Arabs, from the age of 18, was not adopted by the Knesset. No other proposal seems to have any chance of a majority.

Following Kadima's departure from the coalition, the recommendations of the Plessner Committee, set up to prepare a new law, have been shelved.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is now considering a proposal from strategic affairs minister, Moshe Yaalon, which is a much "softer" version of the Plessner Law. It will include targets for drafting higher numbers of Charedi and Arab youths by 2016, and very mild sanctions for those who do not join up. Currently, it has no chance of passing a Knesset vote, but Likud may table it for electoral reasons.

The most likely scenario now is the government asking the High Court for an extension, due to the political turmoil. It is a request the court will not refuse, since no solution can possibly be reached until after the elections.

Last updated: 2:54pm, July 19 2012