Ultra-Orthodox MKs agree to draft 50% of yeshiva students into IDF – report

Drafting so many of this population to the army would be an unprecedented concession, but many hurdles remain.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) lawmakers have agreed in preliminary discussions with fellow lawmakers that a quarter of Ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students reaching draft age should be inducted into the army, Israel Hayom reported Tuesday.

Moreover, in coming years, that number could be increased to 50%, which would mean some 6,000 additional annual recruits to the IDF.

While the general outline for an agreement has been laid out, there are many details which would have to be settled for the plan to be adopted, the report noted.

Not least among them is whether the numbers could be anchored in a new draft law to replace the previous law, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2017.

Just as it has in the past, the courts could strike it down by saying that this threshold does not meet the requirements of a universal draft, meaning that the burden of army service is still shouldered unequally by the secular and national-religious populations.

If it is just passed in a government decision, however, it could be easily overturned when a new coalition takes power.

In addition, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has conditioned his approval of a new Draft Law on the agreement of War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz.

However, Gantz, the report said, “does not intend to agree” to the idea.

Gantz had presented a proposal in February whereby most haredim would be either drafted or do national service in dozens of new alternate tracks in “recognized security, emergency and charity organizations.” An “elite” would continue studying Torah full-time, and “many” would be able to “serve at the same time as studying.”

The report emphasized that the fact that the haredi politicians admitted that it would be possible to draft thousands of yeshiva students was unprecedented.

It “puts on the table,” the report said, “what is known to everyone as well as to the ultra-Orthodox – there are masses … who do not really study around the clock.”

The Hebrew daily cited “data from ultra-Orthodox sources” that more than a thousand students who receive exemptions do not attend their institutions.

“Many more,” it added, go to “yeshivas for dropouts” but do not learn.

According to IDF figures, 540 males from the haredi sector voluntarily enlisted after October 7th, instead of continuing to use their annual deferments as full-time Torah students.

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Dozens completed a shortened basic training course that included how to respond to Arab infiltrations and using weapons in a civilian setting. They were sent this month to guard ultra-Orthodox  towns in Judea and Samaria.