IDF internal report: Haredi enlistment figures deliberately falsified

If the new enlistment figures do indeed show that the rate of ultra-Orthodox enlistment has not been rising, then the government’s entire strategy for the issue would have to be called into question.

Ultra-orthodox in the IDF: A Nahal Haredi swearing-in ceremony (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Ultra-orthodox in the IDF: A Nahal Haredi swearing-in ceremony
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An internal IDF report has found that some of the figures for the number of ultra-Orthodox (haredi) men enlisting in the army were deliberately falsified, and the majority of the figures were inaccurate.
Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Roni Numa was appointed in December 2019 to investigate reports that the number of ultra-Orthodox IDF recruits had been deliberately exaggerated, and submitted his report to IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi earlier this week, Channel 12 News reported.
According to the revised figures, and in contradiction to the originally reported numbers, there was no increase in the rate of ultra-Orthodox enlistment to the IDF between 2014 and 2018.
Yohanan PlesnerYohanan Plesner
The original numbers reported by the IDF demonstrated steady if slow increases in the number of ultra-Orthodox men enlisting every year.
These figures were widely reported, including by this newspaper, and often used to make the argument that progress was being made on equalizing the burden of military service more fairly throughout Israeli society.
This claim now appears to be incorrect.
President of the Israel Democracy Institute Yohanan Plesner said that if the new enlistment figures do indeed show that the rate of ultra-Orthodox enlistment has not been rising, then the government’s entire strategy for the issue would have to be called into question.
“As long as the small numbers being recruited are stagnant that means there is an absolute failure in promoting recruitment from the ultra-Orthodox community,” Plesner told The Jerusalem Post.
He also noted that the definition of who is considered ultra-Orthodox for the purposes of the law is extremely broad, some of whom likely are no longer actually in the ultra-Orthodox community.
In addition, Plesner pointed out that some of the ultra-Orthodox recruits serve in technical or administrative positions and are married with children, meaning they get a substantial wage compared to other recruits.
He said therefore that ultra-Orthodox men recruited under such circumstances could not really be considered as “equalizing the burden of military service” since their terms were so much better then, for example, an 18-year-old recruit who serves in a combat unit and gets paid “pocket money.”
Because of these failures, Plesner said that there is now “a genuine risk” to the IDF model as a conscription army.
He said therefore that increasing pay for all IDF personnel would create a greater incentive for everyone to serve, including ultra-Orthodox recruits, while preserving the mandatory nature of IDF service.
In addition, Plesner said that the age of exemption should be lowered from 26 years old, to avoid the trap many ultra-Orthodox men find themselves in.
This is the situation whereby such men cannot work or enter full time higher-education since this is illegal while an individual is still of military age, but they also do not want to enlist in the IDF.
What transpires is that they continue to study in yeshiva and taking state subsidies for doing so, but by the time they are able to gain a full exemption often have such deep family commitments that it is no longer viable for them to gain the necessary qualifications to obtain well-paid work.
“Lowering the age of exemption is at the same time both outrageous and necessary,” said Plesner.
“It’s a complex reality. This is not an ideal solution, it doesn’t provide equality, but given the past failures it will be better.”