MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) said on Monday that the mandatory IDF service should be cancelled and that the Israeli army should be turned into a professional army. This, he said, would bring to an end what he termed the “cultural war” between secular Israelis and hareidim.
“There are two wars going on in this country,” he said. “The first one is a security war against the Arabs and the second is a cultural war against the Torah and the Jewish way of life. Someone who is truly concerned about security must only accept into the army soldiers who are suitable for fighting. This should be in accordance with the decision of the related authorities, not in accordance with the aspirations of the commissars of secular culture.”
“The law of mandatory conscription requires the military to recruit everyone, even those who are unable to fight,” said Eichler. “Drafting everyone constitutes a burden on the fighting forces. Billions from the defense budget are wasted on soldiers who do not contribute anything to national security. Only eliminating the mandatory conscription will also eliminate the demagogic basis of the enemies of the hareidim who wish to use the army to war against the Jewish culture.”
According to Eichler, "In the war of defense against enemies from outside, we must cancel the mandatory draft and release billions that are unnecessarily wasted by the army on soldiers who are not fit. These cost the country three years of unnecessary and heavy expense that affects the wages of professional soldiers. The ‘people's army’ is a political term to create a ‘melting pot’ of secular culture. It should gradually become a professional army whose job is only to defend. Releasing the unnecessary soldiers will leave a lot of money for fair wages for a professional soldier.”
Eichler’s comments come as the government faces its first coalition crisis over the planned drafting of hareidim.
The Perry Committee for Equal Burden of Service abruptly ended a meeting on Sunday night after an argument between the chairman of the committee, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Perry of Yesh Atid, and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon over the issue of criminal sanctions against hareidi yeshiva students who evade army service.
Yesh Atid demands that, once a 4-year transition period is over, hareidi men who dodge enlistment face criminal sanctions, but the other coalition partners want the sanctions to only be financial.
In response to the disagreement, Yesh Atid chairman Finance Minister Yair Lapid threatened that “There will be equality in the burden [of military service] or this government will fall apart.”
"If someone thinks that I entered politics only in order to solve the financial catastrophe that the former government has left behind, then he does not understand what we are doing here,” he added. “I call upon the parties to wake up and behave as ruling parties are supposed to behave. Stop this game – it does not bring them any honor and it is preventing a historic wrong from being corrected.”
Bayit Yehudi chairman Minister Naftali Bennett urged members of the government and MKs to show understanding and stay calm until the problem can be resolved.
“We are within a historic process that will eventually integrate the hareidi public into Israeli society,” Bennett said at a meeting of Bayit Yehudi MKs Monday. “The path to this is full of roadblocks, and I call on all involved not to overreact.”
Bennett said that the process of bringing hareidim into the army and the workforce – after a decades' long exclusion from both – would require time and patience to work properly.
“No one wants to see the Military Police invading Bnei Brak and making arrests," he said, in reference to Israel's largest hareidi-majority city. "This will not solve anything. On the other hand, a slow and intelligently-implemented process of benefits, coupled with a great deal of love for the hareidim to integrate them into the greater Israeli society, is what is needed."