The Plesner Committee (Hebrew: ועדת פלסנר), also known as the Commission for equality in the burden (Hebrew: הוועדה לקידום השוויון בנטל) is a committee established by the Government of Israel with the aim of formulating recommendations on the issue of recruitment of Israelis to the Israeli Defense Forces, and in particular regarding the recruitment of Haredim and Arabs. The committee was established prior to the anticipated expiration of Tal Law which exempts Israeli yeshiva students from mandatory military service in the IDF.
The committee included representatives of all the coalition parties, with the exception of representatives from the religious parties (Shas and the United Torah Judaism parties) who boycotted the committee. Towards the end of the committee's work, about a month and a half after it was established, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved the committee on 2 July 2012, after several representatives on the committee withdrew from the coalition, since the way the committee was conducted was not to their liking. However, on 4 July, the chairman of the committee Yohanan Plesner published the committee's report although he was the only one who signed it.
On 23 July 2002 the Knesset passed the Tal Law, based on the recommendations of the Tal committee. The Tal Law set the conditions for the exemption of yeshiva students from military service. The law was a temporary one pending further consideration and set to expire after 5 years. On 18 July 2007, the Knesset extended the law by a further 5 years. On 21 February 2012, the Israeli Supreme Court declared the Tal Law unconstitutional, by 6 votes to 3, and that the law could not be extended after it expires on 1 August 2012.
As a result, the government established the Plesner Committee. It consisted of ten members, included both Knesset members and representatives of the public. The committee began deliberations on 21 May 2012, and the Prime Minister asked them to report by the end of July 2012.
Members of the committee and professional teams
Committee members were:
- MK Yohanan Plesner, a representative of the Kadima party. The committee chairman
- MK Ze'ev Elkin, a representative of the Likud party.
- MK David Rotem, a representative of the Israel Beiteinu party. Withdrew from the committee on June 28.
- MK Uri Orbach, a representative of the Jewish Home party. Withdrew from the committee on June 28.
- MK Einat Wilf, a representative of the Independence party.
- Yehuda Segev, former head of Manpower Directorate.
- Attorney Jacob Weinroth. Withdrew from the committee on July 1.
- Yoav Kish, public representative, leader of the "HaMachana HaMeshutaf" (המחנה המשותף) movement
- Professor Yaffa Zilbershatz, a professor of law at the Bar-Ilan University
- Professor Yedidia Stern, a professor of law at the Bar-Ilan University
The dissolution of the committee
Following the withdrawal of the representatives of the parties Israel Beiteinu the Jewish Home party, on 2 July 2012 Prime Minister Netanyahu informed that the committee would be dissolved because it can not form a recommendation without having a majority.
MK Plesner's report and recommendations
After the dissolution of the committee its chairman Yohanan Plesner published a report on 4 July 2012 which was based on the draft of the committee's report. Plesner stated that he wrote the report himself, and some members of the committee, including Yedidia Stern, ostracized it. The aim set by in the report is to recruit 80% of the Israeli Jewish Haredim from 2016 onwards, and imposing heavy fines on draft dodgers and on the yeshivas in at which large numbers of draft dodgers study.
The main recommendations:
- The main aim: from 2016 onwards about 80% of all male Israeli Jewish Haredim at the age of 18 would serve a significant amount of time in the army or in civil service.
- Personal responsibility: the responsibility for serving the state would be on the individual - financial penalties, criminal punishment and the denial of benefits would be imposed on draft dodgers.
- Recruitment age: all people would be required to serve until age 22 except for a selected group of 1,500 yeshiva students.
- Service routes: the army and civil service will develop designated routes to accommodate the large number of male Israeli Jewish Haredi recruits.
- Community and institutional responsibility: heavy fines and sanctions would be imposed on yeshivas at which large numbers of draft dodgers attend.
Proposed sanctions on individual haredi draft dodgers
- An immediate fine of 7,500 NIS.
- An additional fine of 75 NIS for every day in which a draft dodger failed to report for military service.
- Cancellation of the individual's yeshiva allowance and of the individual's special income support scholarship which is granted to yeshiva students.
- Cancellation of the individual's yeshiva student status at the National Insurance Institute.
- Eliminating the individual's eligibility for state support for housing and mortgages.
- Eliminating the individual's eligibility for a discount on property tax.
- A yeshiva which would have more than a quarter of its students absent would stop receiving support payments, and if at the next check up it would be the same that yeshiva would be closed.
- Ministry of Education would visit yeshivas, and if any of the 1,500 selected yeshiva students would be missing from the school, it would be fined 50,000 NIS.
- Court Bans ‘Tal Law’ for Religious Exemptions from IDF.
- Glickman, Aviad (2012-02-21). "High Court rules against extending Tal Law". Ynetnews.com. Retrieved 2012-02-22.