Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Kislev 5761 - December 6, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Torah Draft Deferments in Danger; Chareidi Community Went All-Out to Heed High Court Order
by M. Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

The government and prime minister Ehud Barak apparently were playing politics with the status of the draft deferment of yeshiva students, as MK Salah Tarif (One Israel), who heads the special parliamentary board set up to put together the law based on the recommendations of the Tal Commission, said that he does "not intend to lift a finger on the issue." The current extension granted by the High Court to the Knesset to pass legislation determining the army liability of yeshiva students expires this weekend.

The chareidi community has done all that is in its power to respond to the order of the High Court. When the current government was formed by prime minister Barak, UTJ declined all offers of government positions to which it would have been entitled for joining the coalition, saying that the only consideration that it asked for was the speedy passage of the yeshiva student army service legislation -- something the government was anyway bound to do. Shas also supported these efforts and their help was crucial at several key points.

The agreed upon timetables in the coalition agreement (again a demand of UTJ to comply with the High Court's orders and timetable) were not met by Barak, who dragged out every step of the process and did not appoint what became known as the Tal Commission for many months. Headed by a former justice of the High Court, the Commission was supposed to reach a consensus proposal. Though by then UTJ was out of the government, it maintained a relationship with Barak and used every bit of its political capital to advance the process, stage by painful stage.

Eventually the Commission did produce recommendations, but they proved highly controversial. The anti-religious parties did not accept the results of the Commission's deliberations, and the bill implementing them passed its first reading last summer only with great difficulty at the time of a coalition crisis.

Technically, there are now four options. The government can ask for a further extension from the High Court; the Court's decision can be allowed to come into force and the army can start drafting yeshiva students; the Knesset can pass one of two approaches to the issue: either the Tal Committee's recommendations in full or a "compromise" bill that simply extends the existing deferral arrangement for another year.

The Knesset's legal adviser, Zvi Inbar, suggested that if the Tal Commission wanted another extension, it should take one by means of legislation, rather than approach the High Court again. In light of delays in formulating the law, the Knesset House Committee did originally decide not to request another extension from the High Court, but rather to pass a temporary measure in the Knesset that would allow the current arrangement to be extended by another year.

During this period, the special parliamentary board would continue to discuss implementation of the Tal Commission's recommendations. However, the chair of the board, MK Tarif, has decided to cease all efforts to resolve the issue and One Israel MKs said that no secular party can afford to support either of these bills with elections just around the corner. MKs Rabbi Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) met with Tarif on Monday about the issue.

Tarif said, however, that he had "no motivation" to work on the legislation after the chareidi MKs voted to advance the elections. "Those who tore the Knesset apart should have known that they must take responsibility," he said. He is said to reflect the prime minister's feelings.

There are reports that the government is leaning toward asking the High Court once again to delay implementation of its ruling. Over the past few days, the State Prosecutor's Office and the IDF Advocate General's Office have held several discussions on the matter in an effort to find a convincing argument for requesting another delay.

Meanwhile, attorney Yaakov Weinroth, one of the members of Tal Commission, said that committee members are furious at the government's behavior. "None of us would have sat there had we known in advance that the committee would become a political football," he said. The Commission, which included representatives of various groups, was supposed to study the matter thoroughly from all its angles and produce consensus recommendations, which it did.

Rabbi Gafni said, "The prime minister must keep his promises and pass legislation regulating the army obligations of yeshiva students."

MK Yossi Paritzky (Shinui) submitted a bill that would halt all state support for anyone who does not appear before the IDF draft board.

Chareidi MKs said that any attempt to enlist yeshiva students against their will would not succeed. "There is no possibility of this and no one imagines that will happen," said Rabbi Gafni.


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