Daily Israel Report

'No Hareidi Draft Dodger is Going to Jail'

Former IDF Chief Rabbi Avihai Rontzki insists that enacting criminal sanctions for hareidi draft-dodgers is a mere formality.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 2/21/2014, 12:44 AM

The Shaked Committee
The Shaked Committee
Flash90

Former Chief Rabbi of the IDF and Head of the Itamar Yeshiva Rabbi Avihai Rontzki spoke to Arutz Sheva about ongoing upheaval in the Shaked Committee Thursday, and declared that criminal sanctions against hareidi draft-dodgers are unlikely to be actualized. 

"The IDF is not going to send officers to the Ponevezh [a large yeshiva in Bnei Brak - ed.] to catch draft-dodgers," the Rabbi insisted. "It would not be practical and anyone with half a brain can understand that." 

"I believe that, at the end of the day, there will not be criminal sanctions enacted," he continued. "We are talking about something which is only a formal declaration - no one will go to jail, this is only a move to gain political capital by Yesh Atid."  

Regarding the potential makeup of the coalition, the Rabbi maintained that everything will remain according to status quo.

"The government supports criminal sanctions, and I think to leave the government over an issue like this is simply wrong," he said. "The [hareidi MKs] outrage over cuts to hareidi yeshivas are also inaccurate - the cut is really not that big." 

Regarding the fiasco over hesder yeshiva programs, Rabbi Rontzki theorized that it's a matter of the public wanting to butt heads with the Religious Zionist community. 

"We worry them because we have influence in every area of society - including the army and academia - [. . .] the prospect is ground-shaking for them," he said. 

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spontaneously ordered the vote over sanctions to be frozen after conflict erupted between the hareidi parties and the rest of the Committee board.

That conflict, over hesder yeshiva service, was in direct response to the criminal sanctions bid. As a United Torah Judaism MK explained to Arutz Sheva, the hareidi community views the bid as a threat. "You push us, we push back," he declared. 

Opponents to the move to enact criminal sanctions warn that the proposal has already alienated the hareidi community even more from the idea of a draft, after the Shas party quit the Shaked Committee over the move. 

Hareidi leaders have expressed strong opposition to criminal sanctions for yeshiva students, and some pro-enlistment leaders have warned that strong sanctions could create a backlash that would mean fewer hareidi men in the army, not more.

Netanyahu reassured the hareidi public last week that the drama over the criminal sanctions is overhyped. “I won’t be a part of sending Jews to jail for studying Torah," he declared. 

The new law was brought back into the public eye following a High Court ruling suspending funding to yeshivas whose students had their enlistment deferred. That postponement was ordered by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon to give the Shaked Committee time to finish its work.

While the ruling was thought to be meaningless, given that February's yeshiva funds had already been allocated, Finance Minister Yair Lapid took advantage of a loophole to retroactively cancel funding to all yeshivas earlier this month, sparking massive hareidi protests.