Israel hopes to have 65 percent of draft-aged haredi men either in IDF uniform
or doing security-related national service by the year 2015, according to a plan
approved by the cabinet Sunday.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
characterized the plan as nothing less than a “significant revolution” that will
have far-reaching consequences regarding the integration of haredim into
Ashkenazi: Those who don't serve should be
Arabs, haredim volunteering for alternatives to IDF
“We will not allow a growing proportion of the public to be
exempt from service ostensibly due to ‘full-time religious studies.’ Israel
cannot sustain this,” Netanyahu said.
The proposal passed by a vote of
23-1, with Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor) casting the
only nay vote. Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor (Likud) and Industry,
Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) abstained.
however, slammed the plan, saying that it legitimized draft evasion for
thousands of haredim.
Kadima MK Yohanan Plessner said that the reform
would allow some 12,000 yeshiva students who are already older than the ages
covered in the program to receive an immediate exemption, and that “within the
next five years maybe 2,400 yeshiva students will enlist.”
released a statement following the reform’s approval, accusing Netanyahu of
“allowing draft evasion in exchange for [political] survival.”
statement said that Netanyahu was turning IDF service into political
“For the first time in the country’s history a prime minister
has without shame and for political ends permitted draft evasion while trampling
the values of IDF as a people’s army, and the importance of equally carrying the
state’s burden,” the statement said.
The head of the IDF’s personnel
division, Maj.-Gen. Avi Zamir, said after the cabinet decision that
currently a quarter of draft-age men do not go into the army, with 13 percent
haredim with yeshiva exemptions. In 1996 the number of yeshiva exemptions stood
at 4% of the eligible draftees, he said.
Zamir said that while he would
prefer that haredim do three years of military service at 18, as is expected of
others, the proposal agreed upon Sunday would reduce the inequality that now
“It is an evolutionary process,” he said.
Zamir said there
was a greater understanding in the haredi community that integration into the
army and then the workforce is necessary to fend off poverty.
to the plan, the number of haredim in national service and the IDF will double
from 2,400 in 2011 to 4,800 in 2015, with half of those in national service, and
half in the IDF. In 2010 there were 840 haredim in the IDF, and 1,050 doing
Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised the decision,
telling the cabinet it was “a correct step in the right direction” toward
getting the haredim to share the national burden.
Barak said the program
would enable some of the haredim to enter the country’s workforce, and will lead
to a gradual change in the relationship between the haredim and both the IDF and
The program allocates NIS 130 million to the IDF to absorb the
haredim and create appropriate frameworks for them, and NIS 70m. to create
national service programs.
Under the program, the Shahar project will be
This is a program through which haredim serve
in IDF technological frameworks for some two years and are trained to enter the
civilian labor market.
Under the program approved Sunday there will be
four tracks for haredim:
• A track for haredim who are not in a yeshiva
framework – they will do a year’s preparatory course, and go into the army at 18
for three years.
• Nahal Haredi, for those aged 18-22, who will serve two
years in the army, and then spend their third year in training for civilian
• Haredim aged 22–25 who will serve 24 months in Shahar, and
also receive training to enter the civilian workforce; or do a year of national
service in organizations such as the police, Prisons Service, Fire and Rescue
Services and Magen David Adom.
• Those above 26 will do three months of
national service, and then be placed in the reserves and trained for national