Hareidi yeshiva students
Hareidi yeshiva students Flash 90

Plans laid down by Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) for the upcoming draft law for the hareidi-religious sector will impose economic sanctions on draft-dodgers, as opposed to the criminal punishments proposed by the Yesh Atid party. 

According to Walla!, Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked, who is leading the committee in charge of preparing the bill for its second and third rounds in the Knesset, is slated today to remove the criminal charges imposed by the bill, and replace them with economic sanctions against offenders.

Sanctions will include budget cuts to offending yeshivas (Torah academies), prohibitions on receiving state funding like Arnona (property tax) discounts and housing benefits, and other negative incentives designed to encourage the sector to join the IDF and, eventually, the workforce. 

According to internal documents, Walla! reveals that "in view of the different opinions regarding the implications of imposing criminal sanctions for yeshiva students, we are asking the Commission to examine an alternative plan to apply the provisions of the security service for yeshiva students, whereby if 'the community' does not meet its funding (i.e. fund-raising goals for the hareidi-religious IDF recruitment nationwide), we will not apply criminal sanctions," but rather "apply negative economic incentives for the individual. "

The question of what actions should be taken against draft-dodgers - particularly regarding institutional draft-dodging on the part of major yeshivas - has been a significant source of contention between Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home). Lapid cut funding for all yeshivas in his 2013 budget, but a major campaign by Bennett was initiated to exert pressure to restore at least part of the funding. 

The government finally announced last month that NIS 65 million would be transferred immediately to yeshivas - but also that future funding will depend on certain restrictions, like the draft level and involvement in Zionist activities and programs. 

Walla! also notes that Lapid objects to the economic sanctions, claiming that some will simply endure the sanctions and effectively "buy" their way out of a draft. On Saturday, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) attacked the idea, citing the change as evidence that the coalition between the two parties cannot be maintained.

"The hareidi community must face the law," Peri stated, emphasizing the "aspect of values, legal and public," to ensuring that the law passes. 

Shaked stated to Walla! yesterday, "Tomorrow we will discuss the legality and effectiveness of economic sanctions if recruitment targets are not met. In the end, both Yesh Atid and Jewish Home want to enlist the hareidi sector into the IDF, but we need to find an intelligent way to make that happen." 

Hareidi yeshivas advocate for full-time Torah study, ideally as a lifetime pursuit, to the exclusion of national service or having a job. This stands in contrast to the Religious Zionist "hesder yeshiva" stream and religious "mechina" pre-military programs, which combine intensive Torah study with IDF service, and whose students integrate into wider Israeli society.

Until recently, hareidi yeshiva students received a blanket exemption from national service for "religious reasons" - a policy which was widely unpopular, as most other Israeli Jewish men are subject to a mandatory military draft. The current Knesset session looks set to pass a bill calling to draft hareidi students as well, amid outcry from the hareidi leadership.