Haredi en­list­ment bill mov­ing for­ward

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By JEREMY SHARON

Fi­nal­iza­tion of the haredi en­list­ment bill cur­rently be­ing ad­vanced through the Knes­set will be­gin this week, said Likud MK David Am­salem on Thurs­day dur­ing a hear­ing of the spe­cial com­mit­tee he chairs to pre­pare the leg­is­la­tion for its fi­nal read­ings be­fore be­ing passed into law.

De­spite his com­ments, agree­ment on the fi­nal terms of the bill by Agu­dat Yis­rael, the has­sidic half of the United To­rah Ju­daism fac­tion, has yet to be reached, al­though the party’s rab­binic lead­er­ship did in­di­cate a soft­en­ing of their stance in a meet­ing last month.

“I in­tend to con­vene the com­mit­tee next week for con­clu­sions and draft­ing the clauses of the law,” Am­salem said dur­ing the hear­ing.

Com­mit­tee mem­bers dis­cussed in par­tic­u­lar the clauses re­lat­ing to fi­nan­cial penal­ties against the gen­eral state-funded yeshiva bud­get should en­list­ment tar­gets for the haredi (ultra-Or­tho­dox) sec­tor not be met.

The en­list­ment bill stip­u­lates an­nual en­list­ment tar­gets which in­crease every year for ten years, and fi­nan­cial penal­ties in the form of steadily in­creas­ing re­duc­tions to the bud­get for haredi yeshivas should those tar­gets not be met.

If the tar­gets are not met for three years in a row, the law will be voided and oblig­a­tory en­list­ment would be in­cum­bent on all haredi men.

How­ever, the fi­nan­cial sanc­tions will not take ef­fect in the first two years of the law’s ex­is­tence, and it will only be voided if tar­gets are not met in the sub­se­quent three years.

Agu­dah has be­come less op­posed to the fi­nan­cial penal­ties clause, with sources say­ing that the rab­binic and po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship view them as rel­a­tively soft and could any­way be offset by di­vert­ing money to yeshiva stu­dents through other chan­nels.

The com­mit­tee also dis­cussed the civil­ian ser­vice pro­gram which haredi men can en­list into in lieu of mil­i­tary ser­vice, which forms a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the over­all haredi en­list­ment tar­gets in the new leg­is­la­tion.

The pro­gram has suf­fered a se­vere de­cline in en­list­ment since 2014, with the tar­get for the 2016/2017 en­list­ment year be­ing missed by 66%, largely due to lower pay for civil­ian ser­vice (sherut leumi) than IDF ser­vice and the fact that large num­bers of po­ten­tial civil­ian ser­vice re­cruits were given per­ma­nent mil­i­tary ser­vice ex­emp­tions un­der the 2014 En­list­ment Law passed by the last govern­ment.

Pro­gram di­rec­tor Reu­ven Pin­ski sug­gested rais­ing the age limit for en­try into civil­ian ser­vice to bol­ster re­cruit­ment to it, in­creas­ing pay and ex­pand­ing the se­cu­rity tracks within the pro­gram for ser­vice in the Is­rael Po­lice, Is­rael Prison Ser­vice and the Fire Ser­vice, where cur­rently only 300 re­cruits are serv­ing.

Am­salem said how­ever that such is­sues should be dealt with di­rectly in amend­ments to the law for civil­ian ser­vice, and not in the com­plex and po­lit­i­cally charged haredi en­list­ment bill it­self.

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