Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

19 Adar 5761 - March 14, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Yeshiva Student Draft Deferral Arrangement Extended for Two Years
by Eliezer Rauchberger

The Knesset approved a law on 12 Adar to continue the existing arrangement for yeshiva student draft deferrals for the next two years. The unceasing efforts of the UTJ representatives at the instruction of maranan verabonon to do away with the decree that loomed over the yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel has borne fruit. Fifty-nine MKs voted for the law; 38 opposed and 7 abstained as the bill passed its second and third readings. The bill was passed even before the new government took office, but it was with the obvious support of the new government as both Shas and United Torah Judaism threatened not to join the government unless the Knesset approved a two-year extension of the current arrangement.

The Knesset had previously rejected a proposal to extend the period by only one year by a majority of 56 as opposed to 42 and one abstention.

According to the new law, the current procedure for deferrals of full time yeshiva students will remain in effect until the summer of 5763. Deliberations on the issue will take place during this time, and procedures for the enactment of a permanent law on the issue will be implemented.

Members of the following parties voted in favor of the postponement: Likud (including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon); Shas; UTJ; Mafdal (except for Shaul Yahalom, who abstained); Ichud Haleumi, Chadash, Gesher and Bashara. Parties voting against the laws were: Labor, Yisrael B'Aliya, Meretz, Shinui, Habechira Hademocratit, Center, Heirut, Yisrael Beiteinu.

The Labor Party imposed party discipline for the vote on the proposal, though many party members were noticeably absent or abstained. Among those absent was outgoing prime minister Ehud Barak, who in recent years has led the public campaign for the draft of yeshiva students.

Among those who abstained were MKs from the Labor party with plans to run for party and government positions in the future, knowing that they will need the support of the chareidi parties. These MKs include Avraham Burg, Binyamin ben Eliezer (who is also a minister in the new government), Chaim Ramon and Shlomo Ben Ami. Shimon Peres was absent from the plenum during the vote.

A day-long marathon to recruit a solid majority for the proposal preceded the vote. UTJ Knesset members scurried about the Knesset for hours, trying to persuade as many MKs as possible to support the proposal and to extend the temporary order for two additional years, instead of supporting the proposal to postpone it for one year only.

At one point during the day it was feared that the proposal would not pass, due to the party discipline imposed by the One Israel party on its members. Members of the Mafdal party also threatened not to vote for a two-year extension.

Chareidi MKs and those from the Likud who joined the efforts to pass the law were instrumental in convincing some MKs from Labor to be absent from the vote in order to guarantee a majority. By the time voting had begun, it was certain that a clear majority had been secured in favor of the proposal.

A lengthy debate preceded the vote, in which the Meretz and Shinui Knesset members blatantly attacked the law, the Torah world and bnei yeshiva.

At the debate, Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz denounced Shinui chairman Tommy Lapid for his scathing remarks. He then added, "Lapid has reached heights of hatred and animosity in his remarks, unheard of in the old world, but heard only in the new world that wants to destroy the old one." Rabbi Ravitz also attacked MK Paritzki from Shinui. "You spread more hatred for Jews than many of the worst non-Jews," he said.

Rabbi Ravitz blessed prime minister Ariel Sharon for his support of the law, and said that the idea to enact a law for two years was Sharon's. He did this in order to gain time in which to seriously deliberate on the issue, without the pressure of having to legislate a permanent law.

Rabbi Gafni was surprised by the opposition of the One Israel to Sharon's request for extension of the time in which to deliberate on the topic so that amicable arrangements could be made. "It is inconceivable to permit a situation in which every six months or year there is a renewed incitement campaign against the lomdei Torah. We demand to close this issue in the shortest period of time possible. We ask that it end within four months."

Rabbi Gafni criticized those demanding an extension of the term for only a year, claiming that a situation in which the chareidi Knesset members will have to return to the Knesset to ask for another extension and then undergo more incitement, is unthinkable. "During a period in which national unity prevails and everyone wants to prevent rifts in the nation, why make an issue over whether the extension should be one year or two? Is that a crucial issue?"

Rabbi Meir Porush criticized members of the Meretz party, saying: "When Barak's Government was set up and the UTJ representatives joined the coalition, everyone knew that Barak agreed to pass legislation guaranteeing the yeshiva students draft deferrals. Now, however, they are leading an incitement campaign against the law and against the lomdei haTorah. What kind of hypocrisy is this, when they incite the Labor party against us? Why is Meretz putting on `holier than thou' airs?"

In December 1998, the High Court ruled that the longstanding system whereby the defense minister granted deferments according to a minor provision of the law was illegal and that the Knesset had to legislate the arrangement it wanted to impose on society. It gave the Knesset a year to pass the appropriate legislation.

Eight months later and under intense pressure from UTJ which entered his government asking only for this committee and implementation of its recommendations, then prime minister Ehud Barak appointed a committee, headed by retired Supreme Court justice Zvi Tal, to propose a compromise agreement.

The draft deferral law approved last week was part of the larger legislative package based on the final recommendations of the Tal Committee. It in effect maintains the status quo on the issue that has prevailed since the establishment of the State that gives the defense minister the right to issue an unlimited number of deferrals every year.

The same law was approved in December for five months as an interim solution until a new government could take over.

The decision to split apart the Tal legislation was made after the High Court's deadline for passing a law on the deferrals expired.

The public committee headed by former High Court Justice Zvi Tal recommended that yeshiva students be allowed to get deferrals, but also calls for special frameworks for chareidi military and civil service. The Tal legislation would also enable yeshiva students to get permanent exemptions at age 24, after which they would be able to work legally.


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