Bennett and Gafni
Bennett and Gafni Flash 90

Any attempt to forcibly draft yeshiva students en masse would likely backfire, Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) said Monday, arguing that sweeping changes to Israel’s draft law and draft exemption program were neither necessary nor helpful for the government’s goal of increasing haredi enlistment.

Speaking Kan Monday morning, Bennett decried calls by opposition leaders for tougher measures to force large numbers of yeshiva students into the army.

Last week, Zionist Union chief Avi Gabbay vowed to vote down a proposed bill aimed at reforming the draft system, while largely leaving draft deferments for yeshiva students intact.

Gabbay demanded policy changes which would “share the burden equally” and bring more haredi draftees into the IDF.

On Monday, Bennett decried calls to forcibly draft large numbers of haredi yeshiva students, claiming such a move would fail to achieve its aims and could jeopardize the progress already made in increasing haredi enlistment levels.

“We need to do things piecemeal,” said Bennett. “If we come at them with tanks, we will accomplish nothing.”

“Trying to take shortcuts will in the end make the path even longer. Already we have haredi service members, and we need to increase the number each year. Within a generation, a significant portion of the haredi community will be serving in the army.”

Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that the new draft bill, backed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, would be brought to a preliminary vote next week.

The bill was drawn up by a joint committee of IDF and Defense Ministry officials, and would largely retain the open-ended, annually renewable draft deferments offered to full-time yeshiva students.

Haredi lawmakers have objected, however, to provisions in the bill increasing punishments for draft dodgers, and imposing economic sanctions on yeshivas which fail to meet the government’s enlistment goals.

Representatives of Shas and United Torah Judaism informed Netanyahu of their plans to vote against the bill next week.

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