Shas, UTJ fight to prevent the Court from killing Haredi military exemption

The newest development in the crisis that ensued after the High Court’s decision to make Israel draft a new law or else draft all the haredim.

BY Jeremy Sharon, Gil Hoffman, JPOST

Haredi lawmakers vowed on Wednesday to prevent the High Court of Justice from ever intervening again on the issue of haredi military service, by introducing a proposed amendment to the current law including a clause allowing the Knesset to override a High Court decision on such legislation.

However, their coalition partner Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman said that such a clause would be a mistake, and that he wanted to see a situation in which anyone refusing to serve in the IDF or national service is given a criminal record and denied state subsidies such as for higher education.

Despite these contradictory perspectives, Liberman expressed optimism that the government would see out its full term in office.

Following the dramatic High Court decision on Tuesday striking down the law allowing yeshiva students to gain exemptions from military service, the United Torah Judaism and Shas parties convened an emergency joint meeting in the Knesset on Wednesday morning to discuss their next steps.

UTJ chairman and Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman said that the two parties would submit a bill to circumvent the High Court ruling and ensure that the law could not be struck down again.

“The bill will happen, no one will be drafted. Within this law we will insert an override clause so that it will be impossible to annul it,” Litzman said, adding that his party had warned coalition partner and Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon during the coalition negotiations that UTJ would insist on such a clause if its enlistment law was struck down.

“He said he wouldn’t stand in the way when it comes to drafting yeshiva students, so I’m not worried,” said Litzman.

Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri painted a darker picture, accusing the High Court of having overthrown the elected government and established its own regime.

“It can’t be that we run for Knesset, spend lots of money to get elected, and it turns out we are run by the High Court,” said Deri.

“We don’t work for the judges.Someone has changed the system. If the judges want to run for office, they can run.

These are matters of principle that must be decided by the government and by the members of Knesset. I call for returning the power to the Knesset and to let the judges make legal decisions.”

Speaking later in the day at a pre-Rosh Hashana Yisrael Beytenu celebration in Jerusalem, Liberman issued a starkly different message, saying that the High Court ruling was an opportunity to deal with the injustice of having two classes of Israeli citizens, one which serves in the military and one which is exempt from doing so.

Describing the situation as “an injustice,” he said that it reduced national resilience and solidarity which he insisted was the most critical component in the strength of a nation.

Liberman said that his preferred method for dealing with people who refuse to perform military or national service would be to give them a criminal record, although not to jail them, and to deprive them of state subsidies.

“We need to do this wisely.I can give them a criminal record, and deny them all grants and subsidies, so they won’t get money for university, or yeshiva or college, they’ll have to pay full university fees,” the defense minister said.

“There are effective tools to show that someone who refuses to serve has a price to pay, and we will continue to work in this direction.

“The High Court ruling is an opportunity to deal with these injustices. It is a mistake to talk about an override clause, we need to talk about real change,” he said.

Despite the gulf between Liberman’s position and that of UTJ and Shas on what is a matter of fundamental importance for the ultra-Orthodox parties, the Yisrael Beytenu leader expressed optimism that the government could last for its full term.

September 16, 2017 | 22 Comments » | 557 views

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22 Comments / 22 Comments

  1. The ultraorthodox must use their soul to “protect” G-D and their bodies to protect Israel. G-D by the way needs NO protection!

  2. The Court is right on this issue. There should not be a privileged class of Jews in Israel. Ultra religious Jews can choose the Hesder army program and continue to study Torah. They can also choose an army role that doesn’t require them to live on the base, so the kosher excuse is no longer valid.

  3. The haredim cause no end of problems for Israel and Israelis. The very worst of their many outrageous behaviors has been the decision of the chief rabbinate, which is haredi-controlled, to “blacklist” over 6,000 Israeli Jews as not “genuine” Jews, forbidding them to marry or divorce in Israel unless they convert to another religion. Another outrageous action is to “decertify” the conversions of many Jews by choice years after their conversions were finalized by Orthodox Jewish courts. Their opposition to haredi men and women serving in the armed forces is yet another outrage. But what can be done about it? Because the haredim are at least 15 per cent of the Jewish population, no government can be formed without their approval. They also receive considerable support from the religious Zionists (who are crazy to support them) and even from the Arabs, who have their own sharia courts that are empowered by the same laws that empower the haredim.

  4. @ watsa46: Watsa, what are the rt and the it? I am not trying to make a point, but am only requesting information. Thanks. Please reply in this column.

  5. Whilst I am against abolishing the Rabbinate, and also denuding them of authority so as to seriously decide who is a Jew, A large majority Jewish State with such a heterogeneous population needs an authoritative body to pronounce on these important religious matters.

    At the same time, I strongly agree that all Israelis should serve in some either military or service capacity just like every other Jew. They get the benefits from the State, they need to give something concrete back,and not just learn Torah and pray. Admittedly they are mostly very poor and well below the poverty level, but they don’t need to be so. No merit is gained from that. They can serve and learn Torah too. This has been long proven.

    I agree with adamdalgliesh that they cause no end of trouble for the country, which already has more than it’s share, and much of it has been about the mandatory National Service. It must stop. The Yeshiva Heads are much to blame, and should be penalised for encouraging their students to resist service. They’d be a lot healthier and physically stronger also.

    Fresh air and exercise good for you.

  6. @ Edgar G.: I can see your point, Edgar, concerning the need for a religious authority to decide points of religious controversy among Israel’s diverse Jewish population. But the religious authority should be someone who is moderate, responsible and in the main stream of Jewish religious tradition. By and large the religious Zionists cum Modern Orthodox fit this description. Unfortunately, the rabbinate is now in the hands of haredi extremists who make outrageous decisions, such as “blacklisting” thousands of Jews because they have doubts, based on very questionable grounds, that they are really Jewish. The ITIM organization, which represents American Modern Orthodox Jews, has documented these abuses through the Israeli equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act.
    The Talmud contains many passages that mourn the power of the ultra-strict “School of Shimei” and its dominance over the more moderate, compassionate and inclusive “School of Hillel.” The present chief rabbis, as well as several of their predecessors, are definitely “Shimeists,” as many contemporary Israelis have pointed out. Perhaps one possible solution would be to make the appointment of the chief rabbis and rabbinical court judges by the Minister of Religious Affairs, rather than have them elected by the religious councils, as at present. The chief rabbis and rabbinical court judges should also require confirmation by the Knesset.

  7. @ adamdalgliesh:

    The Minister for Religious Affairs “might” be the right person to appoint the Rabbinic hierarchy; a definite decision for this would be a big help, But it would be pure good luck if they made the right appointments. The problem is that like most Ministers, they are political give-and-take deals between the parties. I always think of Amir Peretz, who was surveying troops through field glasses which were still capped)….. We’ve been hugely lucky with Shaked, who, with no legal experience is going to be the best Justice Minister Israel ever had. .

    When the Russians came, tens of thousands of family members were not Halachically Jewish. And that problem is still with us because of the inflexibilty of the cloistered Rabinnic Authorities.

    As for Shammai, I always thought that our Talmudic Rabonim made many of their decisions based on Hillel rather than the often harsh Shammai, Talmudic stories show Hillel was revered, whilst Shammai was not.

    This is my sincere opinion……Owing to the unceasing, persecution of the Jews by the Goyim, they were convinced that, whatever they were doing was wrong, and G-D was frowning on them. So they increaded theit concepts of devotion, and much accreted sillness of severity evolved. Jewish Communities were often persecuted because intelligent people were struck by the beauty and comfort of normative Judaism and would often convert. So the Rabonim discouraged conversion.

    All of a sudden, with Napoleon, the Jews tasted a little freedom, and from then, the Anti-Jew laws began to crumble. But the “Rules and Regulations” of Rabbinic Judaism was by then monolithic. The Shulchan Aruch was compiled i the middle 1500s based on Talmud and medieval precepts, and if you read through it you find some of the silliy stuff.. Also superstitions acquired from surrounding peasantry, crept in. When I was a kid in chaidar, I was taught to put on my left shoe first, to do whatever on the left side first because that was closest to the heart, and gained more merit.

    Nonsense like that. Even the action of kissing the mezuza when passing can be dangerous to the health, as it is exposed to all sorts of dust and germs. Yet it’s a hallmark of superstitious religiosity.

    And…….”Lest We Forget”……. the Rabonim often make a “good thing” from making complications, sometimes being open to bribery etc…as we know very well.

    This is just my own opinion and belief, It’s BIG MESS.

  8. Edgar: I agree with everything you’ve said. A brilliant analysis, in fact. I would add, however, that many of the religious “laws” and “halakhah” handed down by haredi “gedolim” over the last few years, and have no basis in the Shulhan Arukh, Maimonides Mishnah Torah, or any of the other standard codifications of Jewish law. For example, there is nothing in the Shulchan Aruch to indicate that public transportation should be segregated by sex, or that sidewalks should be segregated by sex. No influential “posek” ever issued such a decree until after the State of Israel was established in 1948, and even then, only in Israel. Haredim in the Diaspora, including the United States, continue to ride in buses and trains with “mixed” seating, and as far as I know, none of their poskim have forbidden them from doing so. Plainly, much of the ersatz “halakha” of the haredim is nothing more than an imitation of Arab customs and laws, which the haredim from Europe first encountered when the immigrated to Israel. Apparently, they want to prove to their Muslim neighbors that they are just as pious as them, so they invent new Muslim-imitating “halakhah” with no basis in Jewish tradition. Pathetic.

  9. @ adamdalgliesh

    :Right on the mark. You hit on a very important point. When reading your comments on these “apartheid” customs, it came into my mind that they had been absorbed from the surrounding Arab population, (even long before Israel) I also have noticed that many even large Jewish Communities in Arab lands were sometimes cut off from one another and individually evolved different customs, Nothing major that caused uproars just different interpretations by their Rabonim.. This one subject alone could engage us for a long time.

    Look how different are the Sephardi customs from the Ashkenazi. and also internal Sephardi cultural differences.

    Side Note; In the early and middle Middle Ages, I always marveled that the dictat of a single notable Rabbi, (for example, Rabbi Gershon of Maintz) would eventually spread-not without it’s dissenters- to the whole Jewish world over the next many years. It just took this one Rabbi, eminent because of his previously writings and decisions, to have polygamy banned, and to redo all the marriage and divorce laws. It didn’t happen overnight of course. (The story I read was that he has two wives and had trouble with them)

  10. Just curious, since I’m really not invested in this matter, but how do later Jewish writings rationalize away Deuteronomy 20, On Going To War which clearly rules out a draft — I’m presuming they do since a number of you seem to be religious and are claiming that these later works — which I haven’t read — say something different. Seeing as the haredim’s stand is presented as sectarian fanaticism and not simply a principled standing by the Torah.

    I mean, I’m reading the thing in a plain English version, and it seems as explicit as the nose on your face, it says, “no draft”:

    “5 The officers shall say to the army: “Has anyone built a new house and not yet begun to live in it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may begin to live in it. 6 Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it. 7 Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her.” 8 Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.” 9 When the officers have finished speaking to the army, they shall appoint commanders over it.”

  11. @ Sebastien Zorn:

    They didn’t have all sorts of “goodies” to distract them. No daily dose of TV, no nightly news, no new volvos, or jobs, or the chance to make a lot of money, etc.etc. Not to mention Levis and cutting age spectacle frames……., Have I missed out anything important……

    Maybe having casual children out of wedlock with no stigma, nor responsibility….
    Oh yes, No beer.

  12. @ Edgar G.:
    Did they have any of those distractions when Maimonides was writing, or when the two Talmuds were published, or the Shulkan Arukh or the Pirkot Avot were written?
    Does it make any difference?
    Isn’t the passage saying anybody who is unmotivated to fight for any reason, go home we can’t use you, you will just ruin everybody else’s morale and then giving some contemporary examples? Is this really dated or context bound?

    Isn’t that exactly what happened in the U.S.? The revolutionary communist mass movement here that lost us the war and was turning into a civil war, evaporated into thin air overnight in 1973 when the draft was abolished and the drafted troops withdrawn even though the war went on for another 2 years.
    And didn’t Peace Now begin with unhappy reservists who were tired of being sniped at on patrol in Southern Lebanon?
    Great, now they got what they wanted. They can be assasinated while off duty and waiting at a bus stop inside Israel.

    But, back to my question. This is for religious folks. Really Jewishly religious folks who have spoken up against the Haredim. How do you rationalize away Deuternonomy 20 and then say Torah this and
    Torah that.

  13. @ Edgar G.:
    Isn’t that how the October Revolution in Russia began? And Germany and Hungary and throughout Europe at the end of WWI. Anger at the draft. In the U.S., Socialist Presidential candidate, Eugene Debs, got a million votes while in prison for opposing the war.

  14. @ Sebastien Zorn:

    You certainly should know…I KNOW you do…that we don’t live specifically by Torah Law, we live by Rabbinic Law, and as the world changed and grew smaller, the Rabonim changed their dictums to meet the increasingly different circumstances. However, in most cases, but not all, they managed, often in a very convoluted way, to connect it with Torah, as indeed the Rabonim did when they were interpreting, calling it the Torah Ba’al Peh. You can see in the Talmud, decisions of Rabonim, making interpretations of precedents, laid down hundreds of years earlier, which already were interpretations caused by external pressures.

    If you have ever heard a prominent Rabbi (say..a Dayan) speak after dinner, you’ll have experienced, as I have many times, that the Rav will pick his subject, go on a circular journey, his words seemingly having no connection with the original subject spend 20-30 minutes on it, and at the end, circling around, neatly tying it in with the original matter, like a well ridden horse 5 places back, just nipping his opponent at the post.

    Jesuits are reputed to be able to do this too but I’d back a Rav……..

    So make what you will of it, this is my answer to Deut. 20. “Times is changed”. The principle may (or may not) remain(s) but the implementation is either in abeyance or re-interpreted negatively. Torah is often used to prove contradictory assertions. We live with it by ignoring it.

  15. @ Edgar G.:
    Fine. My question was pretty straight-forward. What are the passages being cited in these later works that are being so confidently cited as doctrinal by the opponents of the Haredim who are being attacked on religious grounds? I don’t believe you were one of them.

    Somebody else feel free to answer this. I am genuinely curious. I am sure I am not alone. When I hear people condescendingly and passionately expound “Torah” that flatly contradicts the only “Torah” I’ve read, how can I help but wonder what on earth they are going on about?

  16. @ Sebastien Zorn:

    Maimonides did not live in an era in which an independent Jewish state had to be maintained for the benefit of the entire Jewish nation, but especially for those Jews who were citizen residents of that Jewish state.

    My wife and I make weekly shabatot, with requisite candles, wine, bread and prayers in real Ivrit, which both of us can read, more less. Thats a lot more Jewish practice than about 95% or more of the American Jews, most of whom worship liberalism.

    But if I were an Israeli, I would strip away from the draft dodgers among the haredim all rights other than to leave the country.

    Arnold Harris, Outspeaker

  17. So you are not basing yourself on scripture but on common sense. Fine. Perfectly logical and I am aware of the arguments pro and con. But, people here were citing later scripture — which, in turn, would have to at least give lip service to something in the Tanakh and I want to know what they were referring to. Anybody?

  18. @ Sebastien Zorn<

    "Scripture" has a very wide definition. Some stipulate only the Torah and Nevi'im, minus the Ketubim, others include the Talmud,…..The Mishna, Gemara etc. I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about and you also know I don't have any computer skills. So look up the tractates yourself, and good luck to you. There are only 6200 pages, and the points I made are not just common-sense-they often lack common-sense to me in the 21st cent.. They are there somewhere and I have read them., You're a lot younger than I so again spend your time between now and Yom Kipur in the best way, read Talmud.. Maybe in Pirke Avot.

    In the meantime A Shana Tova L'echa.

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