Tzipi Livni
Tzipi LivniFlash 90

The Hatnua faction will vote to implement a bill for equal burden in IDF service only if it extends the term of active military service for Hesder program soldiers, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Sunday.

The Hesder program allows soldiers to combine military service with Torah learning. The overall length of the program – five years – is significantly longer than the three-year term of service mandated for most soldiers, but the portion spent in active military service – 16 months – is much shorter. Some newer programs have met demand from students for a longer term of active service by increasing active service to two years.

The program is popular among young men in the religious-Zionist community.

Hatnua believes that Hesder soldiers should spend at least as much time in active service as hareidi-religious soldiers, Livni said. “Hatnua believes that the purpose of the law must be to create an equal burden of service, but the suggested compromise would create discrimination between hareidi men and hesder yeshiva students,” she said.

Regarding Arab citizens of Israel, Livni said, “Hatnua supports civilian national service for Arab citizens, and the expansion of benefits to encourage such service. However, Hatnua has not yet agreed to this clause.”

Minister of Economics Naftali Bennett, head of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, has previously criticized Livni and her fellow Hatnua minister Amir Peretz for their attempts to change the Hesder track, and has pledged to protect the existing program.

The Perry Committee spent several weeks examining ways of expanding hareidi-religious army enlistment. The committee submitted its proposals to the government on Sunday.

Many government ministers and coalition MKs have expressed opposition to various aspects of the recommendations.