Daily Israel Report

UTJ Bill Seeks to End Conscription

UTJ chairman Israel Eichler's last ditch effort to exempt yeshiva students from IDF is a law that would create a volunteer army.
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 5/16/2012, 10:24 PM

Israel Eichler
Israel Eichler
פלאש 90

United Torah Judaism chairman MK Israel Eichler submitted a bill on Wednesday seeking to do away with military conscription in Israel.

Eichler's bill suggests "a citizen or permanent resident aged 16.5 years who has expressed his desire to enlist in the army is entitled to join the military service or national civilian service for the country, while a citizen who expressed his desire not to join will be exempt."

"After 64 years of independence, it is time to end conscription altogether, which costs tremendous resources to enlist our youth into military service without concern for actual operational and professional recruitment needs.

"This proposal will reduce funding requirements and allow the Army to decide if it really needs a given volunteer to serve. This will transform our military into a professional body that recruits based on operational needs alone.

"Recruitment and selection will be based on a personal desire to express solidarity with the Army and to serve as an efficient professional, and will allow proper compensation for outstanding soldiers and officers, who should be paid properly based on the degree of sacrifice and talent they demonstrate," he said.

Eichler, whose UTJ faction represents Israel's Ashkenazi hareidi community, is opposed to doing away with the Tal Law that had a formula allowing for  a gradual rise in the enlistment of those who engaged in fulltime Torah study, leaving the exemption for this fulltime study intact. The Supreme Court recently struck down the law as being unegalitarian.

While IDF combat units, which are volunteer only, are consistently forced to turn prospective candidates away due to the number of volunteers seeking to serve in them, the same is not true of all the other positions in the IDF. 

The IDF manpower division, which has seen a rise in the number of Jewish youth from the secular public who avoid service, has repeatedly complained in recent years that the number of Israeli youth seeking exemptions has grown too large.

Senior IDF officials have called to bolster Israel's combat arms, intelligence corps, and edge in military technology due to the geopolitical upheaval caused by the Arab Spring - including deteriorating relations with Egypt - and threats posed by Hamas, Hizbullah, and Iran. 

On the other hand, voices in the IDF have repeatedly said that the IDF is not able to incorporate the entire yeshiva student community. The new law will also have to take that fact into account. 

The newly-expanded super-coalition of 94 seats headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made drafting a replacement to the Tal Law its number one political priority.

Political analysts say Eichler's proposal will certainly be brushed aside by the government, which has already formed a committee to draft a Tal Law replacement, but has said that the change will also mandate enlistment of yeshiva students in a gradual  process.

The level of Torah study in Israel is one of the miracles that have occurred since the establishment of the state.