Analysis of data for deferring military service by age which the State Prosecutor filed with the High Court of Justice last summer by Hiddush for Religious Freedom and Equality found that 48,000 yeshiva students will receive a full exemption from military service under the sharing the burden structure that will be applied by the new government.
Hiddush found that 26,000 of the 48,000 yeshiva students will receive an immediate exemption from the draft, and 22,000 students will receive an exemption over the next four years. Hiddush said that, for the sake of comparison, each year's intake of 18-year old Jewish men is 46,000.
Hiddush found that since the coalition agreement states that the duty of military service will only come into effect in four years, the current situation in which non-binding service targets will persist. The paragraph in the coalition agreement on the exemption of yeshiva students states, "From August 1, 2013, and for a four-year transitional period, yeshiva students who have not been drafted and students aged 22 who have not received an exemption from military service will be presented the options for service. The students who opt not to be drafted will receive an immediate exemption from service."
Hiddush says that this paragraph was a compromise made by Yesh Atid. The party's original proposal offered a full exemption from the draft for five years to all yeshiva students from the age of 18. The party's platform stated, "In the first stage, yeshiva students in Israel will be allowed not to be drafted into the IDF from the age of 18 and they can go to work immediately."
According to Hiddush, this sweeping exemption for yeshiva students over the age of 22 appears to contradict another paragraph in the coalition agreement, which the NPO says lays out very ambitious IDF draft targets for haredi (ultra-orthodox) men, such as 3,600 inductees in 2016. Many haredi inductees are over 22, but after receiving the exemption it is doubtful if they will have an interest in serving. It is also highly doubtful if, under these conditions, the IDF will be able to meet the draft targets or even come close to them.
Hiddush director Rabbi Uri Regev said, "The number of mass exemptions only highlights the questions raised in the coalition agreements. The logic in granting the exemptions now is not clear, but the duty of service will only apply in the next term in four years. At this stage, the agreements increase discrimination between Jews, rather than reducing it." He added, "It's an illusion to think that incentives alone will bring yeshiva students to the draft boards en masse, and that it will be possible to meet the draft targets."
Rabbi Regev called on Yesh Atid to reconsider the coalition agreements, saying, "The duty to serve should apply immediately, on the basis of the IDF and national service's capabilities."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 19, 2013
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