Itongadol.- Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday brought before the cabinet a bill to draft haredim into the army – a bill that could turn out to be the signature piece of legislation of the current government – saying the goal was twofold: to integrate haredim into the army or national service and into the workforce.
As expected, the cabinet approved the bill with 14 ministers voting in favor of the measure and four abstaining.
"After 65 years we are bringing for cabinet approval the guidelines for increasing equality in the [military and tax] burdens," Netanyahu said at the outset of the weekly cabinet meeting.
Netanyahu said this will be done gradually, with "consideration for the special needs of the haredi population." He said integrating haredi youth into the work force was no less important than drafting them into the army or national service.
Netanyahu praised the work done by the committee that drafted the bill, headed by Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, for its work. He said he also attributed a great deal of importance in getting the country\’s Arabs to share the state\’s burdens, and he said that while this was touched upon in the committee, more work was needed on this issue.
Following the cabinet approval, the bill will go to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, and then to the Knesset.
The bill calls for mandatory haredi enlistment by 2017, except for exemptions for 1,800 Torah prodigies. Enlistment could be deferred until age 21, but refusal to serve would result in imprisonment.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who made this issue the centerpiece of his party\’s successful election campaign, told reporters before the meeting that Sunday was a "historic day."
"After 65 years we are finally correcting this aberration, for the benefit of haredi society, and for the benefit of Israeli society as a whole," he said.
Lapid enthused that this was an exceptional achievement on an issued that brought down previous governments and ended political careers. "Three and a half months since the establishment of this government we are passing a historic change, this is something big for all of us," he said.