The answer to the ongoing political and social crisis Israel has been suffering for two years is to formulate a new IDF draft bill which includes the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday.
In a press conference at the Kirya, Gantz said that he informed the attorney-general that he will not ask the Supreme Court for another extension for the draft bill, but will ask his coalition partners to approve his suggestion in the cabinet.
“In the Israel of 2021, more than 50% of the youth are not joining the army,” Gantz said.
“Army service is harmed; Israeli society is torn apart,” he said. “We must be united in our service…Israeli society is changing its face, the IDF has turned from the people’s army to half the people’s army. Combat warriors become freierim [suckers].”
According to Gantz’s plan, a new directorate will be formed in the Defense Ministry to oversee the new drafting mechanism. Within this new system, youngsters will be able to choose whether to join the army or the civil service apparatus.
“This way, for example, haredim [the ultra-Orthodox] could join charity organizations – a highly respected cause among their communities – and also learn a profession in the emergency, health and welfare organizations,” Gantz said. “Arab citizens could give back to the community, develop education organizations within it and help combat crime.
“Each and every one will give two years for the sake of unity; everyone will serve two years for the sake of our society,” he added.
The defense minister said that the IDF is already preparing an outline plan. He also said that all of those who participate in the draft will be able to join the employment market and that the service exemption age will be lowered to 22, which will allow more haredim to go out and work.
“This is how we will revive the Israeli economy after the corona,” he said.
According to the plan, it will take around a year to set up the new directorate, for a transition period of 6 to 8 years. During that time, Gantz said, the goal is to get to a 70% draft rate.
“Only by doing this, will we increase equality in Israeli society, build growth, strengthen social services – and most important, start healing the gaps that threaten our future,” Gantz said.
Yesh Atid and the haredi Degel Hatorah Party attacked the plan, the former by accusing him of surrendering to the haredim, the latter accusing him of breach of promise.
“The attempt to reconcile with the haredim at the expense of their bearing an equal share of the burden is another example of Blue and White’s moral bankruptcy,” opposition leader Yair Lapid’s Party said. “It is sad that the defense minister is waving a white flag of surrender for political reasons.”
Degel Hatorah Party head Moshe Gafni responded by calling Gantz a pathological liar, accusing him of breaking a promise to pass the original conscription bill.
“Instead of keeping his promise, he is coming up with delusional plans to win a few votes and cross the electoral threshold,’’ Gafni said.