Ultra-Orthodox against compulsory service, to leave government

The Haredim threaten to abandon the coalition government if draft law is approved. The latter includes an ultraorthodox quota set to rise every year for ten years. If not respected, the school budget would be cut.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Ultra-Orthodox Jews have no intention of taking up arms, said Deputy Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman.

Mr Litzman, who heads the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party, threatened to leave the governing coalition if the Haredi draft bill is voted into law.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the Haredi (ultraorthodox) enlistment bill for its first reading in Knesset. To be approved, the bill must be submitted to two other readings.

The bill stipulates annual enlistment targets which increase every year for ten years, and financial sanctions in the form of steadily increasing reductions to the budget for Haredi yeshivas should enlistment targets not be met.

The current law requires all men and women over the age of 18 to serve in the military. The Haredim were exempt from military service when Israel was created when there were only 400 yeshiva students.

Now, due a higher birth rate, their numbers have increased substantially and they enjoy state subsidies, which irritates many secular Israelis who seem them as "parasites".

For years, the Haredim strongly have opposed any attempt to enrol their members into the military. Instead, ultra-Orthodox parties want complete exemption for Torah study by equating it with military service.