MK Ofer Shelah
MK Ofer Shelah Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Shaked Committee (Committee for Equal Share in the Burden) met Tuesday to discuss questions pertaining to hareidi army enlistment. Discussion focused on the basic issue of defining “hareidi” for enlistment purposes, continuing a debate that began Monday.

MKs must decide which youth will be considered “hareidi,” and how to measure enlistment rates, in order to determine whether the IDF is meeting hareidi enlistment targets.

Under the committee’s proposed law on hareidi enlistment, failure to meet enlistment targets would put new punishments into effect, including criminal sanctions against young men who do not enlist.

MKs did not reach a final decision on the “who is hareidi” question, but seem poised to agree that one of the criteria will be having learned in a hareidi school for at least two years from age 14 to 18.

MK Ofer Shelah of Yesh Atid said the Knesset must reach a clear conclusion, “so that only people who are really hareidi will count toward enlistment goals.” He also insisted that enlistment goals count only “those who actually enlisted in the IDF, not those who wanted to enlist but were not accepted for service.”

Shelah went on to accuse the IDF of seeking to avoid enlistment targets. “The army really does not want to be required to enlist hareidi men. If it had wanted that, the Tal Law wouldn’t have been cancelled,” he argued.

“The Tal Law failed because the IDF didn’t want it. The military is deathly afraid of the possibility that it will be obligated to enlist all of the hareidi men,” he accused.

The Tal Law, which allowed hareidi men to defer IDF service in favor of full-time Torah study, was originally intended to encourage military or civilian service for hareidi men, and to boost hareidi integration in the workplace. It was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2012.

Brigadier-General Gadi Agmon, head of the IDF’s Planning and Personnel Division, denied Shelah’s accusations.

“I deny that the IDF does not want to enlist hareidi men,” he said. “I don’t understand why the proposed law doesn’t set clearer goals.”

Agmon suggested that the goal be a gradual enlistment in the number of hareidi men who enlist in the military annually, as a percentage of the number of hareidi men eligible for enlistment.