Israel police carry a haredi protestor during an anti-conscription demonstration in Jerusalem, March 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Against the background of the coalition crisis regarding haredi military service, the State Comptroller’s Report published on Wednesday showed that the nonbinding targets for haredi enlistment are not being met.
The report was strongly critical of the Defense Ministry and the IDF for failing to implement measures to encourage and increase the number of ultra-Orthodox men enlisting to the army, and of the failure to create effective enforcement measures against yeshiva students with IDF exemptions who fail to fulfill their study commitments.
One of the central observations of the report is that the enlistment targets are not being met, although the number of haredi men enlisting is increasing.
In 2013, 1,972 haredi men enlisted compared to 2,850 in 2016. However, the gap between the number of enlistees and the annual target is growing, so whereas is in 2013 the target was 2,000 enlistees, which was just barely missed, in 2016 the target was 3,200 enlistees, which was missed by more than 10%.
The Comptroller’s Report also notes that although the haredi-sponsored 2015 amendment to the law for haredi enlistment enacted under the previous government essentially gutted the purpose of that law, it still provided for the establishment of an interministerial team to be headed by the Defense Ministry director-general to advance the goal of meeting the nonbinding enlistment targets.
In April 2016, the director-general presented then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon with a multi-year program for meeting the targets, which included promoting enlistment to haredi youth who obtained military service exemptions due to their enrollment in yeshiva studies but who fail to actually attend yeshiva.
The report said that only nine months later did new defense minister Avigdor Liberman, who took office in May 2016 and who in the last few days demanded a tough law for haredi conscription, forward a draft cabinet resolution to adopt these recommendations, which the government has yet to approve.
The interministerial team also recommended that an administrative department within the IDF also be established to encourage haredi enlistment and to integrate and place those who do enlist in appropriate branches of the army.
The report noted again that despite the considerable time that has passed since the interministerial team made its recommendations, the new department has yet to be established.
Finally, the report addressed the significant problem of yeshiva students who obtain military service exemptions due to their yeshiva studies but who fail to study in yeshiva.
This is thought to be a widespread problem, resulting from the intellectual rigors of Talmud study which many young haredi men are thought to be ill-suited for. There is little oversight of the system, however, meaning that the scale of truancy is not known.
Among the interministerial team’s recommendations in April 2016 was the establishment of an oversight system within the Defense Ministry. The recommendations also said that the list of approved yeshivot by the ministry for obtaining IDF exemptions was out of date.
The interministerial team recommended that the new oversight department conduct physical checks at yeshivot to check whether students registered for IDF exemptions were in attendance; use Internet resources to identify students who were not complying with the terms of their exemptions; the establishment of a computerized system to verify whether registered yeshiva students were indeed attending yeshiva; and the creation of a framework for revoking Defense Ministry recognition of a yeshiva if its students were not in attendance.
The establishment of an enforcement department was finally approved in May 2017, but the Comptroller’s Report noted that it has still not begun operations.
The State Comptroller’s Report concluded that the increase in the gap between the government targets for haredi enlistment to the IDF and the actual number of enlistees looks likely to continue in the coming years, if the problems it highlighted are not addressed.
The Defense Ministry said in response to the report that Liberman had presented a draft cabinet resolution to carry out the recommendations of the interministerial team “at the beginning of 2017,” including revoking the 2015 haredi amendment which gutted the previous law.
It added that the IDF has now established the department for encouraging enlistment among haredi youth and that the enforcement department would be set up as well.