Press Release

IDI Scholars React to Attorney General’s Forced Sunset of Ultra-Orthodox Draft Bill in 2020

IDI Scholars React to Attorney General's Forced Sunset of Ultra-Orthodox Draft Bill in 2020

Tuesday, 13 August 2013, Israel Democracy Institute, 4 Pinsker St., Jerusalem - In reaction to the announcement by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein that any legislation outlining a process for drafting of the ultra-Orthodox must expire in 2020 and that all Jewish men must be drafted at age 18 then, Prof. Yedidia Stern harshly criticized the decision while Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer welcomed it.

"First and foremost, the Attorney General's decision purports to dictate to the Knesset the final arrangement for the ultra-Orthodox draft," said Prof. Stern, former member of the Plesner Committee. "This decision turns the serious debate in the legislature into nothing more than a fleeting discussion. Seemingly, the Knesset is only authorized to make interim arrangements, while the permanent arrangement for conscripting haredi men is strictly a matter for adjudication by the courts. The result is a reversal of democratic decision-making: only the Knesset, as the body elected by the public, has the authority to make decisions of such a scale (which are, of course, subject to judicial review). The intervention of the Attorney General has no basis in the Supreme Court ruling which rejected the Tal Law, and is therefore uncalled for."

Prof. Stern, who has co-authored an alternative proposal for drafting the ultra-Orthodox with Haim Zicherman, continued, "Second, the Attorney General's call to draft the ultra-Orthodox at 18 is also wrong on the merits. It pushes the moderate haredi majority into the arms of the extremists, and will result in a dramatic retreat from haredi integration into the larger Israeli society. The blunt application of the principle of equality misses a historic opportunity to fix a broken system. In the words of Justice Ayala Procaccia, 'The democratic process shows understanding for the variety of needs of the various communities.' She was right when she said that we must avoid 'wielding an axe that will cause irreparable damage to Israeli society.' We must avoid taking a 'principled' stand which will cause irreversible damage to Israeli society."

Co-author of a competing haredi draft proposal with Profs. Avi Ben-Bassat and Momi Dahan, Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer expressed strong support for Weinstein's move. On the issue of creating a special arrangement for ultra-Orthodox men, Prof. Kremnitzer stated, "Setting the draft age for ultra-Orthodox men to age 21 is a grave violation of the principle of equality. Such an approach makes army service for those who are drafted at age 18 problematic and unfair, and reduces significantly the utility of the military service of those who start at age 21. A better option would have been to gradually expand the draft at 18 to all." Responding to the Attorney General's decision, Prof. Kremnitzer continued, "The only way to justify such an exception for one group is by limiting said arrangement to a transition period only. As such, the decision of the Attorney General is a welcome contribution to advancing equality."

For more information or to schedule an interview with Prof. Yedidia Stern or Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, contact:
Yehoshua Oz
Director of International Communications