Extremist haredim have begun a new campaign against the state regarding IDF enlistment, alleging that new regulations to stop secular women obtaining military service exemptions by falsely claiming they are religious are designed to draft haredi women into the army.
The regulations, which the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee approved on Tuesday, allow for an exemption to be canceled by a special committee if it is discovered that the woman in question is not in fact religious or has become nonreligious since she applied for the exemption.
Religious women are able to gain an exemption from IDF service, but a not-inconsiderable number of women claiming an exemption on these grounds do so fraudulently.
The IDF presented statistics at the Knesset committee hearing showing that in 2017, out of 18,958 declarations from women who said they were religious, 240 were rejected as fraudulent while another 397 women decided to retract their declaration either willingly or after being presented with evidence that proved they were not religious.
This amounts to more than 3% of the declarations, while some estimates say the total number of fraudulent declarations could be as high as 5%.
In 2012, an amendment to the law was passed by the Knesset that would allow an exemption gained on fraudulent grounds, or for someone who is no longer religious, to be canceled, although the regulations to implement this amendment were never approved in committee.
A push to finally draft and implement these regulations has led to extremists in the haredi community, including those from the Jerusalem Faction and the Eda Haredi communal organization, to falsely claim that the IDF is seeking to draft young haredi women.
To this end, a rabbinical conference was held on the issue last month, public notices have been distributed calling on haredi girls not to cooperate with the IDF, and fierce demonstrations have been staged outside the homes of haredi MKs whom the extremists accuse of not doing enough to protect haredi women from the IDF draft.
On Tuesday morning, some 200 male followers of the Jerusalem Faction and the Eda Haredit demonstrated outside United Torah Judaism MK Uri Maklev’s home in Jerusalem, some of whom physically blocked the stairwell and entrance to the building to try to stop him from getting to the Knesset.
Eventually large numbers of police were deployed, and they succeeded in dispersing the protesters, arresting three during the operation.
Despite the hostility of the protesters to the UTJ MKs, and the antipathy of the Jerusalem Faction and its supporters for the mainstream haredi party, the haredi members of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee MKs Maklev and Yoav Ben-Tzur voted against the regulations.
They were passed however with the support of opposition MKs on the committee.