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Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Monday that the growing number of youth who dodge the IDF draft will eventually harm national security and turn the IDF from a "people's army" into an "army of half the people."
"When a soldier who goes out to the battlefield feels like a sucker, this harms national security," Barak said during a conference at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security in memory of Ha'aretz military commentator Ze'ev Schiff who passed away last month.
Barak said that Israel needed to return to the days when military service was something to be proud of and draft dodgers carried the mark of Cain. Barak added that Israel's true heroes were those who served in the IDF.
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"A society under an existential threat will only know how to survive if it respects those who defend it," he said.
Ahead of the August draft, the IDF reported damning statistics showing a sharp rise in the number of teenagers dodging military service. The total reaches 25 percent of youth born in 1989 and scheduled to enlist in the IDF this summer.
Of the 25%, some 11% received exemptions this year on grounds of being ultra-Orthodox, an increase of 1% over last year. Seven percent did not enlist for medical reasons, including physical and mental conditions. Four percent did not enlist because of criminal records, and 3% live abroad.
Barak further blasted university lecturers and employers who do not accommodate students or workers who are called up for reserve duty.
"I wonder what Schiff would have said about the delegitimization that military service has been granted by elements in Israeli society starting with university lecturers who don't find solutions for students who miss exams due to reserve duty," Barak said.