Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's disbanding of the Committee to Advance Equality in Sharing the Burden, committee chairman MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) on Wednesday presented the recommendations of the committee to the government.
The Plesner Committee had worked extensively in recent weeks to put together recommendations on how to increase equality of the burden by integrating more ultra-Orthodox men into the army. Initially comprising members from all parties in the coalition (with attorney Jacob Weinroth representing Shas and United Torah Judaism), the committee later saw several of its members leave for ideological reasons before its ultimate dissolution.
On Wednesday, Plesner faced the press almost alone as he read out the committee's final report.
The report includes six chapters outlining plans for how to include haredi men into either army or national service. The report envisions that by 2016, 80 percent of all haredi men of the eligible age will either be drafted into the Israeli Defense Forces or be required to complete volunteer work as part of their national service. As is the case for the non ultra-Orthodox majority, the responsibility for enlisting in the army will fall on each young haredi man as he comes of age, in this case between the ages of 18 and 22. Those who evade the draft will face personal fines or similar measures, the loss of tax benefits and even criminal charges. Incentives for haredi men who willingly enlist include shorter military service. Haredim will be required to serve in the military for two years, while those completing national service will have to serve for 18 months.
A group of 1,500 "elite" yeshiva students will be exempt from any form of service.
The committee also recommends setting up a special information center for haredi recruits to guide them and present the different service tracks open to them in the army or national service.
The report's most controversial section deals with the personal fines haredi draft-dodgers will be expected to face. Ultra-Orthodox factions in the Knesset have vehemently opposed such sanctions, while Plesner and Kadima have pushed for both personal and institutional fines on any yeshiva whose students evade the draft. In addition to a monetary fine, which would increase with every additional day a haredi man fails to enlist, criminal charges would also be filed against individuals after five years of draft dodging. The ultra-Orthodox parties have insisted on an alternative solution in which fines would be collected from yeshivas alone.
Among the disputes that plagued the Plesner Committee ahead of its eventual dissolution was the drafting of Israeli Arabs into the army. Yisrael Beytenu MK David Rotem quit the committee following its decision not to include clear recommendations regarding the inclusion of this sector in the IDF. Plesner said on Wednesday that although the committee came to the conclusion that this issue lay beyond its scope, it did see a need to enlarge the number of Israeli Arabs who served in the army from 600 to 6,000 over the course of five years.