Prime Minister Ehud Barak has appointed a public committee to
formulate a suitable arrangement for drafting yeshiva
students, as provided in the coalition agreement made with
United Torah Judaism (UTJ). The Torah party did not ask for
any of the normal perks of participation in the government,
such as ministerial positions, money or even Knesset
committee chairmanships, focusing exclusively on the issue of
The more than 50 year old arrangement whereby the Minister of
Defense issues deferments to yeshiva students who are
completely dedicated to Torah learning was upset by the High
Court last year that ruled that it was illegal. The Court
recommended that the Knesset pass legislation governing this
area, and graciously allowed the traditional arrangement to
continue for a year to allow the Knesset to act.
The new committee has just three months to produce a solution
acceptable to all sides. UTJ asked that it be appointed
"immediately" to give it more time. One of the issues that
held up its formation was the definition of the task with
which it would deal. UTJ wanted the role of the committee to
be narrowly defined, and Barak wanted to give it a broader
Heading the relatively large committee will be retired
Supreme Court justice Tzvi Tal. Other members are: cabinet
secretary Yitzhak Herzog; Maj.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Nativ, a
former OC Manpower and today head of the IDF's veterans'
association; Chaim Yisraeli, a Defense Ministry deputy
director-general; Israel Sadan, Chadera mayor and former head
of the Border Police; Bnei Brak Mayor Rabbi Mordechai
Karelitz who was involved in the coalition negotiations for
UTJ; Rabbi Asher Tannenbaum, the director-general of the Vaad
Hayeshivos that has traditionally served as liaison between
the yeshiva community and the army; attorney Yaakov Weinroth;
Rachel Stobitzky, a deputy legal adviser to the defense
ministry; and deputy attorney-general Yehoshua Schoffman.
Justice Tal was considered to have occupied the "religious"
seat on the High Court. Attorney Weinroth is also
Barak has asked the committee to suggest legislation that
would allow him as defense minister to use his judgment on
various aspects of the problem. Some suggestions made in the
statement include deferring service, or releases for those
who study continuously.
The committee has also been asked to suggest military
frameworks that would allow for integrating some chareidi
youth into service. These include more chareidi Nahal units
and other military training.
Barak also instructed the committee to examine the
possibility of reducing the current age limit for releasing
yeshiva students from the military call-up pool, to allow
these sectors to enter the work force.
The prime minister noted that since the committee is dealing
with the specific arrangements of such a sensitive topic, it
would be able to bring sectors of Israeli society
The anti-religious Shinui party condemned the committee's
composition, as expected, criticizing Barak for failing to
appoint secular civilians.
This is certainly a topic that Yated will follow.