Draft law headline here


V A proposed law that would set a gradually increasing quota on the number of Strictly Orthodox yeshiva students drafted into the IDF has passed its first hurdle in the Knesset.

The bill, which was drafted after the High Court said previous rules were unconstitutional, would see 3,348 Strictly Orthodox men recruited into the military next year and a further 648 join the civilian National Service branch.

The quotas would rise by eight per cent annually until 2020 and 6.5 per cent thereafter.

The Strictly Orthodox parties United Torah Judaism and Shas both voted against the bill, but it was passed with the support of the opposition Yesh Atid party. The main opposition Zionist Union opposed it, saying the quotas were too low.

A special Knesset committee will now meet to ensure the law is supported by a majority of MKs for its final readings. Shas and United Torah object to a clause that would see the draft quotas revoked entirely if they are not met for three years running. In such a case, the entire Charedim community would be liable for call-up.

The Chasidic rabbis who lead the Agudat Yisrael faction of United Torah Judaism have taken a hard-line position, with Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman warning his party would leave the coalition if the law was passed in this form.

There are also differences over the definition of a Charedi soldier. At present, anyone who studied in a yeshiva at the age of 14 is considered Strictly Orthodox, meaning many soldiers who are no longer practicing Charedim are counted.

Critics of the bill said it would not lead to significant change in the situation, since anyone still studying in yeshiva would remain exempt from service, while those who have left would fill the quotas.

In 2017, 3,011 soldiers classified as Charedim enlisted in the IDF.

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