(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), chairman of the Knesset group working on the
implementation of the Tal Law, accused the government on Wednesday of failing to
fulfill commitments made in January to provide NIS 140 million in funding for
the recruitment of haredim (ultra-Orthodox) to the IDF.
The money was
pledged by the government in an agreement between the Treasury and the IDF, but
the funds were frozen and have not been transferred, owing to, according to the
Treasury, budgetary restraints.
“It seems that the declarations and
promises made in January were simply designed to convince the Supreme Court that
the government is making great efforts to implement the Tal Law,” Plesner told
The Jerusalem Post
on Wednesday night. “The failure to transfer these funds has
arrested the progress being made in drafting haredim into the
Plesner said that the working group has demanded a “full and
complete explanation” from the Treasury of the financial situation and the
reasons why the funds were frozen.
The Tal Law was passed in 2002 and was
designed to increase recruitment to the army from the haredi sector and
consequently increase haredi participation in the work force.
Ministry also came under fire from the Hiddush equality lobbying group, which
campaigns for religious freedom. Director of the organization, Rabbi Uri Regev,
denounced on Wednesday the Finance Ministry’s refusal to supplement the budget
of the “Shahar” IDF track aimed at drafting haredi recruits into the army as
The Shahar program is a one-and-a-half to two-year track,
designed to draft haredi recruits and provide them with professional training
for a technical position within the army. In 2011, there were 700 applicants for
the Shahar program, but only 500 places available.
Brig.-Gen. Amir Rogovski of the IDF’s Human Resources branch, the Treasury
refused to provide the extra funds required to draft the extra 200 haredi
“The refusal of the Treasury to fund the additional
applicants is a scandal incomparably myopic,” Regev told the Post on Wednesday.
“It’s not possible that the government can decide that drafting haredim is a
vital national goal and for the Treasury to then ignore it. The prime minister
has to decide whether this is a state with a treasury, or a treasury with a
The Treasury’s stance is based on the fact that recruiting haredi
soldiers is an expensive undertaking, since many of the recruits are married
with children, which entitles any soldier to a supplementary army income of as
much as NIS 5,000 a month.
According to Hiddush, the cost of drafting the
extra 200 applicants would be between NIS 15-20 million.
But the cost
would be offset, said Regev, by the returns the state would gain from having 200
extra educated and employable members of the work force.
percent of former Shahar soldiers are now employed because of the professional
training they received in the army, which Regev argues provides the state with
revenue from income taxes and helps to integrate the haredi sector into Israeli
“It’s absurd that the state continues to fund generously yeshiva
studies but refuses to fund programs that help share the burden [of national
service] and helps integrate haredim into the economy and society,” Regev
“Spending money on haredi soldiers is an incomparably beneficial
investment for the state.”
In a meeting held on the issue this week by
the working group on the implementation of the Tal Law, Rogovski stated that
there is no opposition within the haredi public to expanding the different IDF
tracks for haredi recruits, and therefore it is reasonable to assume that
without any budgetary restraints, it would be possible to increase the number of
haredim enlisting to the army every year.