Gov't postpones draft law decision amid Treasury criticism

Haredim at IDF recruitment office at Tel Hashomer  credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Haredim at IDF recruitment office at Tel Hashomer credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The Ministry of Finance says current proposals will neither answer security needs nor raise haredi participation in the workforce.

Just before the revised draft of the Conscription Bill was due to be voted on by the government, the legal advisor at the Ministry of Finance, Adv. Asi Messing, released an opinion sharply criticizing it. Meanwhile, the government session planned for approval of the bill has been postponed indefinitely because of disagreements within the coalition.

"The preamble to the proposed government decision states that ‘economic data are irrelevant to the decision, which has no bearing on the country’s economy,’ but this issue has significant economic implications," Messing states at the opening of his opinion. This is despite the fact that the government has dropped the section considered the most controversial in the bill: the raising of the age at which men studying at a yeshiva become exempt from military service to 35.

"According to estimates by the Budgets Division, the economic effect of lengthening compulsory and reserve service over the coming decade will be NIS 104 billion, and the cost to the state budget is estimated at NIS 41 billion. Therefore, from an economic point of view, it is desirable to act to reduce the burden imposed on those who serve at present, and to make the required efforts to expand immediately the number of those who serve," Messing adds.

No clear targets

Another aspect of the bill that has aroused criticism is the lack of clear targets for conscripting haredim or significant financial sanctions. "Despite the importance of the matter, the bill does not specify any recruitment targets, and does not provide tools that will create certainty about meeting such targets and that will serve as a basis for planning alternatives to drafting into compulsory and reserve duty. Accordingly, in our view, the proposed decision does not include significant elements that are required for analyzing it economically and legally, including the constitutionality of the proposed arrangement," Messing continues.

In addition, Messing implicitly criticizes the lack of attention paid up to now to the stance of the professional staff at the Ministry of Finance. "In the light of the weighty economic significance of this plan, with all its components, there is an obligation to involve professionals at the Ministry of Finance who deal with this area in the process of formulating the plan and in examining the consequences that derive from it," he writes.

"In the light of the above-mentioned difficulties in the proposed plan," Messing concludes, "and since in the nature of things reverting to mechanisms that were tried in the past and that did not succeed cannot be expected to lead to a different result now, we believe that there is a reasonable basis for assuming that the current proposal will not lead to the required expansion in the rate of conscription of haredi men, such as will provide an answer to current security needs that will lower the high cost that these needs will impose on the economy and in such a way that will reduce the existing harm to equality. Besides this, under the proposed plan, the professionals at the ministry do not expect any change in the rate of participation in the workforce by this population either."

Alternative mechanisms

Messing sets out principles that the Ministry of Finance believes should form the basis for an alternative plan for conscription of haredi men:

"a. Detachment of the duty of military service from limitations on entering the labor market, and avoidance of setting an age for exemption from conscription.

b. Service that is militarily useful and that will reduce the security burden on the sections of the population that serve currently, as soon as possible.

c. Use of economic incentives that will directly impact the income of individuals.

"Further to this, alternative mechanisms can be examined for formulating an arrangement the aim of which is expanding the number of haredi men who are conscripted into the IDF in order to provide an answer to the security needs, while allowing some of this community to engage full-time in Torah studies, and while avoiding the substantial economic damage that arises from banning their involvement in the labor market. Such an arrangement could include the creation of a defined numerical framework of quotes for exemptions for yeshiva students. Those included in the quota will be exempt, while the rest will be obliged to be conscripted on the basis of the existing mechanisms in the law concerning service in the IDF, and will be individually subject to financial sanctions, as set out in this letter."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on March 26, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

Haredim at IDF recruitment office at Tel Hashomer  credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Haredim at IDF recruitment office at Tel Hashomer credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
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