Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on has called on Shas to “soften” its opposition to the idea of mass drafting of Hareidi-religious Jewish yeshiva students, the suggestion of which is set to be the almost inevitable conclusion of the Plesner Committee discussing the draft issue. The committee, headed by Kadima MK Yochanan Plesner, has been discussing replacements for the Tal Law, which is set to expire on August 1. The committee will make its initial recommendations next week.
According to an outline of the plan published in Israeli media, Hareidi-religious men will be eligible for the draft beginning at age 18. If they enlist immediately they will receive a number of benefits, both during their service, and in financial rewards after their enlistment period is up. Hareidi-religious parties Shas and United Torah Jewry oppose any sanctions on yeshiva students, and have boycotted meetings of the committee, saying that the issue of forcing young Hareidi-religious men to give up their yeshiva studies is non-negotiable.
A report in Yisrael Hayom Thursday said that the committee was also considering alternative service models for Hareidi-religious students. The committee is likely to include a recommendation that Hareidi-religious young adults be allowed to fulfill their obligation to the state through national service, comparable to the service done by Arab youths, who are not subject to the draft. Service could be rendered through a number of channels, such as in firefighting departments, the Prisons Service, Border Police – even the Shabak, the Israel Security Service (Shin Bet).
The report added that the committee has not yet decided on the number of permanent exemptions which will be granted to yeshivas. The exemptions will allow the most serious students to continue their Torah study uninterrupted. A total of between 10% and 25% of all yeshiva students could qualify for the exemption.
The committee's recommendations will be taken up by the Prime Minister and various Knesset committees, to be turned into legislation that will have to be approved by August 1, when the Tal Law expires.