(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The combined enlistment targets for haredi men to military and national service, as set out in the 2014 Law for Haredi Conscription are not being met, according to data presented to a subcommittee of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.
Although the data show that targets set for haredi enlistment to the army are being met, targets for haredi men joining the civilian service program are being missed by wide margins, and in 2015 are set to fall below 20 percent of the required number.
Enlistment to the civilian service, an alternative for haredi men to military service, was a critical component of the 2014 law, and was expected to make up 40 percent of recruitment from the haredi sector to the overall targets for military and civilian service.
These targets are set to be adopted in proposed amendments to the law now being legislated in accordance with the demands of haredi parties United Torah Judaism and Shas.
According to the statistics presented to the committee, in 2013, 1,858 haredi men enlisted in the IDF, exceeding the target of 1,800, while 2,280 enlisted in 2014, just below the target of 2,300.
However, just 802 haredi men joined the civilian service program in 2013 from a target of 1,300, equaling 60% of the required number, while 747 haredi men enlisted to the civilian service in 2014 from a target of 1,500, less than 50% of the target.
The target for 2015 is set to be missed by an even greater target. So far this year, just 339 haredi men have enlisted to the program out of a target of 1,800.
The severe shortfall in the numbers of haredi men enlisting to the civilian service is likely due to the fact that some 30,000 haredi men aged 22 to 26 were given an immediate exemption from all national service when the 2014 law went into effect.
This mass exemption denied the civilian service program a massive pool of potential recruits.
In addition, the pay in the civilian service is approximately a third of the pay for a married soldier in the IDF. Service in the IDF, especially in the Shahar programs which place haredi men in hi-tech units of the army, are especially valuable when seeking work after military service since these IDF tracks provide recruits with significant professional training.
The proposed amendment to the law being advanced by the government would preserve the same targets as those in the original law. Critically, the amendment will give the Defense Minister the authority to implement compulsory conscription on haredi men if the enlistment targets are not met.
“Despite the myth being spread about by haredi politicians, the civilian service is not meeting the targets,” said Shahar Ilan, deputy director of Hiddush, an organization that has campaigned for haredi enlistment.
“There is no doubt that if there were persuasive sanctions [against draft dodgers] and the state would have invested the efforts and money the targets could have been met. This is additional proof how essential it is to prevent the proposed amendment that abolished the [criminal] sanctions. This is a law whose only purpose is to prevent the process of integrating haredi men into national service and the workforce and to preserve the control of the haredi parties over their electorate.”