Coalition negotiators from Likud-Beytenu surprised their counterparts in Yesh Atid on Monday when they unveiled a new proposal for drafting ultra-Orthodox men to the army. According to the proposal, formulated by the National Economic Council under Professor Eugene Kandel, the government would impose economic sanctions on yeshivas that fail to send an adequate number of enlistment-age students to the military, and would also fine yeshiva students who refuse to enlist and revoke their special tax exemptions.
The issue of enlisting haredi men has become a point of departure in talks to form the next government, and Likud-Beytenu is hoping to reach a broad consensus among the parties interested in joining the coalition.
Unlike proposals by Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid and former MK Yohanan Plesner, the Likud-Beytenu plan would not require yeshivas to set quotas for the number of students who would be able to remain studying Torah instead of joining the IDF.
Kandel presented the proposal, which calls for a gradual and significant increase in the numbers of haredim drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, during the latest round of coalition talks. The proposal envisages drafting up to 60 percent of the ultra-Orthodox population of enlistment age within five to six years, approaching numbers commensurate to the general population.
Likud-Beytenu would set the enlistment age between 18 and 26. However, to encourage earlier enlistment, the government would offer economic incentives to haredim enlisting at a younger age. The proposal also outlined economic incentives for ultra-Orthodox men who chose to enter the workforce following their military service.
Yesh Atid declined to comment on the new proposal, but party members said they would review the document.
Yesh Atid wanted to set the age of enlistment for haredim at 18, as in the rest of the general population, and allow exemptions for only 400 exemplary yeshiva students every year. In the first five years, however, Lapid imagined offering full exemptions to ultra-Orthodox students who requested them, introducing a gradual increase in ultra-Orthodox conscription.
Meanwhile, Vice Prime Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon recently met with representatives of ultra-Orthodox parties and the national Zionist Habayit Hayehudi to reach a consensus on new enlistment laws that do not set yeshiva quotas, which is seen as a stumbling block to forming an agreement. Former coalition head and MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) met with representatives from various factions to draw wide support for the conscription plan.