As the July 31 deadline for the expiration of the Tal Law granting Chareidim exemptions from being drafted into the Israeli army looms larger, life in Israel seems to be growing tenser. Multiple news sources have documented the ongoing Chareidi protests as well as the threats of violence being issued by more radical elements in that community. Even more worrisome are the rumours that the Chareidi leadership will respond to the implementation of a universal draft by going to the UN and the international courts to declare that they are being forced to oppress Israel's Arab enemies against their will. The irony of the same community which shelters pedophiles for fear of committing mesirah threatening to do mesirah on an international scale is frightening.
It first bears noting, of course, that the entire Chareidi argument against being drafted is based on, well simply nothing. The idea that they are somehow exempt from having to share in the burden of defending the country because of their chosen lifestyle of "full time learning" has no real basis in halacha. What's more, if anyone tries to tell you that it's their learning that is the real source of defense for the country, not the physical army, one could point out the following in response:
1) We hold, at least l'hatchilah, that mitzvos tzrichos kavannah. I doubt there is a single Chareidi lad anywhere in all the yeshivos in Israel that is right now sitting at his shtender, shteiging away and saying to himself, "Come on Yankl, learn harder! The State is depending on you!" In fact, one might say that the bare minimum is a recitation of the Prayer for the Welfare of the State and the Chareidim refuse to say that at all!
2) If Torah study protects, why were the first people to run when rockets started bombarding Israel from 'Aza and Lebanon in 2006 those selfsame Chareidim who are the real source of protection for the country? Shouldn't they have deployed themselves to front line army bases?
The difficulty with this situation is the absolute intransigence on the side of the Chareidim. On one hand, one cannot blame them for taking this position. After all, the Arabs in Yesha have used the exact same tactic and wrested one concession after another from Israel ever since the signing of the Oslo Discord without compromising one bit on their original positions and red lines. Anyone who has watched this develop since 1993 would have to conclude that simply refusing to bend one bit in negotiating with Israel while demanding more and more is exactly how business should be conducted.
But I think it goes beyond that. Chareidi philosophy, such as it is today, seems to view compromise as an aveirah. Any change decreed not by the "Gedolim" but by negotiators as a method of reaching an agreement with non-Chareidim seems to be a violation of a principle of faith to them.
In fact, it's entire about principles of faith that this argument seems to be about. As I've noted before, the contradiction at the heart of Chareidism is that their entire "All innovation is forbidden" core belief is an innovation in itself. (Maybe that's why they always seem to be annoyed and angry) The advantage of this contradiction is twofold. On one hand, it allows them to style themselves as the true defenders of the mesorah which has supposedly not changed since the morning Moshe Rabeinu, a"h, put on his finest shtreiml and walked up Mt Sinai to get the Aseres HaDibros. On the other hand, since the existence of this philosophy is an invention, it changes itself by introducing new ideas all the time, each of which is branded as having been there all along ever since Matan Torah. Thus the Chazon Ish, zt"l, could invent the "learn, don't earn" philosophy and declare that army service is a yehareg v'al ya'avor concept and the subsequent Chareidi response is to act like this has always been the case.
As a result, the Chareidi intransigence isn't a result of some kind of personality defect on the part of its leaders. It's just that their black and white approach to every single issue lacks any sense of proportionality. For them, asking them to help support the burden of defending the country is no different than asking them to stop circumcising their sons or to bow down in front of idols of Justin Bieber. Any change, any little change at all, is responded to with angry, outrage and vitriol.
Sadly, if one had to describe the current behaviour of the Chareidi leadership, the best description would be "spoiled brat". What the Chareidi community is doing is quite similar to what such a child would do when denied a toy or treat. He would throw himself on the floor, scream "I hate you" at any parent in proximity and proceed to make a scene designed to terrorize the person denying him his "happiness" into giving it to him unconditionally. And if the parent gave him (I mean, come on, look at how everyone is staring!) there wouldn't be an iota of gratitude from the brat. After all, it's coming to him so why should he say "thank you"?
Take a step back and look at the news. That description above is what the Chareidi community is publicly doing, writ large. It is the spasmodic behaviour of a community that is used to demanding and getting whatever it wants and then spitting in the hand that helps it suddenly being told "No, you have to clean your room or you won't get your allowance this week and I don't care how much you scream". Like the brat who just screams and kicks louder, that is what the country is being threatened with.
In fact, this very reaction might be the Israeli government only clue as to how to deal with the upcoming changes. Like the responsible parent who swallows hard, says "I don't care how much you scream, you're not getting your way" and then steps over the thrashing child to walk away, the Israeli response should be "Here are our proposals, here's our best compromise. We're offering you a sherut leumi option, we're offering a yeshivat hesder option. Take or leave it". And if there is no reasonable response, the next step to be taken should be to announce that those citizens who refuse to be drafted will be denied any benefits of citizenship such as national health insurance, welfare and social support as well as the right to vote. This position should be made unconditionally to all Jewish citizens of the country, secular or religious (because let's face it, secular draft evasion is also a huge problem but just doesn't get the same press).
If that's the case, then the Chareidim can still avoid army service and stay in their yeshivos all day long. It'll just be interesting to see how many do once the welfare payments stop and they can't get their kids into to see the local Kupat Cholim nurse because they have to pay at the door.