Press Release

IDI Scholars Present Plan to Resolve Ultra-Orthodox Draft Crisis

IDI Scholars Present Plan to Resolve Ultra-Orthodox Draft Crisis Yedidia Stern: Peri Cmte Recommendations a dead letter, strategic mistake


Yedidia Stern: Peri Cmte Recommendations a dead letter, strategic mistake

Sunday, 21 July 2013, Israel Democracy Institute, 4 Pinsker St., Jerusalem - As the Knesset prepares to debate the draft Equal Burden Law based on the recommendations of the Peri Committee, Prof. Yedidia Stern and Attorney Haim Zicherman raise significant criticism of the current proposal and offer their own alternative for extending the draft to the ultra-Orthodox.

Prof. Stern, IDI VP of Research, and IDI researcher Zicherman caution that the Peri recommendations will not bring about a breakthrough in integrating the ultra-Orthodox into the Israeli army and society. "The likely outcome is that the law will be a failure in the immediate term, and will be cancelled or will become a dead letter in the medium term. The threat of mass imprisonment if recruitment goals are not met in 2017 is a strategic mistake," they assert. As they see it, "The proposed legislation, if adopted, will deal a lethal blow to the rule of law in Israel because there is no chance that it will be actually be implemented, and in the meantime, its threat of imprisonment galvanizes the haredi community around extreme positions and radicalizes the nature of the discourse on this issue."

Stern and Zicherman argue that government bill contains fundamental flaws that are at the very heart of the issue. For example, it exempts 1,800 Torah scholars a year from military service and entrusts the responsibility of determining which young men receive that status to the yeshivot themselves instead of the army - leaving the door open to institutional corruption.

The IDI researchers believe that it is possible to reach the enlistment rates sought by the government's bill with less drastic measures. According to the Stern-Zicherman proposal:

  • Ultra-Orthodox men will be allowed draft deferment until age 22 to consolidate their religious identity before military service.
  • At age 22, two-thirds of all ultra-Orthodox men will be drafted into the IDF. This target will be achieved gradually over a period of six years.
  • Ultra-Orthodox soldiers will serve 18–24 months of active duty and thereafter in the reserves.
  • The IDF will encourage 18-year old ultra-Orthodox men who are interested in combat service to serve in combat units. In parallel, new hesder yeshivot combining combat service with Torah study will be established for ultra-Orthodox soldiers.
  • Annual quotas for enlistment will be set which will be tied to government stipends; if quotas are not met, funding will be decreased. Positive incentives will be offered as well.
  • End Result: By 2019, two-thirds of all ultra-Orthodox men will be drafted into the IDF at age 22.

Stern and Zicherman conclude, "The government's haredi enlistment bill, which is currently being considered by the Knesset, is at odds with its declared goal. In the immediate future, it will put an end to haredi enlistment completely and will give a blanket exemption from military service to tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox men; in the medium term, it will lead to widespread civil disobedience and the law will ultimately be cancelled. As an alternative, we propose a formula that will increase haredi military service immediately."

An English summary of the proposal and the full Hebrew proposal are available on the IDI website. An alternative proposal drafted by IDI scholars Profs. Mordechai Kremnitzer, Avi Ben-Bassat, and Momi Dahan is also available online.

To schedule an interview with proposal authors Zicherman or Stern, contact:
Yehoshua Oz
Director of International Communications