MK Moses
MK Moses Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Equal Burden of Service Committee, tasked with discussing the issue of hareidi-religious army service, held a stormy session Tuesday during which MKs discussed the issue of sanctions against men who refuse to serve.

The current proposed law would make refusal to enlist a criminal offense. However, some say the best form of pressure would be economic sanctions – such as refusing to give draft-refusers mortgage benefits or discounts on city tax (arnona).

Hareidi-religious MKs were outraged at both proposals, which they warned could lead to a “culture war.”

MK Menachem Eliezer Moses (Yahadut Hatorah) joined his colleagues in expressing outrage in a one-minute speech to Knesset on Tuesday evening.

“The Shaked Committee has suggested stripping those who do not enlist of their right to a mortgage or rent assistance,” he said.

“I want to ask the committee: will you still let us breathe? Maybe you’ll cut off our electricity, and stop giving us water or [cooking] gas?” he asked.

“Without a mortgage, it’s impossible to buy an apartment. So you’re taking away our right to buy an apartment in the land of Israel,” he accused.

“What do you want to do to us? Should we live in prisons, as ‘enlistment criminals’? It’s a disgrace!” he declared.

Hareidi-religious men have traditionally been allowed to defer army service indefinitely in favor of full-time Torah study. While a minority chose to serve, most hareidi men deferred enlistment until they were no longer eligible.

In February 2012 the High Court ruled that the Tal Law, which allowed hareidi men to legally defer service, was unconstitutional and had failed in its goal of encouraging hareidi army service.

The government set up the Equal Burden of Service Committee to find a way to create a new legal reality in which hareidi men and Israeli Arabs would be required to perform some sort of national service.

Hareidi religious leaders have warned that mandatory enlistment would be seen as a threat to the fate of the Torah world. Hareidi MKs have warned that passing a law about hareidi enlistment will not help, as hareidi men will prefer to go to jail rather than abandon their studies.