'Haredi, Arab unemployment an existential threat'

PM's economic advisor tells Keshev Committee current trends will lead to disaster; IDF is able to enlist thousands more soldiers.

Keshev Committee 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Keshev Committee 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The extent of haredi and Arab non-participation in the economy is an existential threat, Prof. Eugene Kandel, head of the National Economic Council to the Prime Minister told the Keshev Committee on Sunday.
According to Kandel, should current unemployment trends in haredi and Arab sectors continue, the government will not be able to fund security needs.
Kandel presented the Keshev Committee, formed to propose a bill that would require all citizens to do civilian or military service, with recommendations on how to build a system of economic incentives, both positive and negative, to encourage these populations to serve.
Keshev Committee chairman MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) instructed the Finance Ministry and the National Economic Council to come up with economic sanctions and incentives that will lead to “significant service,” stop current trends and “put Israeli society on a new path of participation in the economic and security burden.”
Sar-Shalom Gerbi, director-general of the National-Civilian Service Administration, presented the committee with its plan to increase the amount of volunteers to the program, adding that the IDF should still have preference and choose who will serve in the military.
In order to increase the amount of volunteers, Gerbi suggested that service be increased to 18 months for those who are married and 24 months for single people. Those who are not married can be sent to jobs that require longer training periods, which will give them the tools to join the workforce when they complete their service.
Gerbi also recommended increasing the monthly stipend given to those who do national service, and providing them with free public transportation.
IDF Planning and Manpower department head Brig.-Gen. Gadi Agmon said the IDF can enlist thousands more soldiers in different programs.
Agmon also said the IDF must be able to continue to choose who will serve in the military, as it does today, and the length of civilian service should be similar to that of joining the IDF.
Those doing civilian service do not risk their lives or have to report to reserve duty, Agmon pointed out, and therefore, those in the military should receive additional benefits.
Some of the IDF’s suggestions to increase haredi enlistment include reducing the age of enlistment into ultra-Orthodox programs for unmarried soldiers from 22 to 20, and making rabbis responsible under law for false reports of students in their yeshivas.
On Tuesday, 12 NGOs and research institutions will present their stances to the on the topic of haredi and Arab service to the Keshev Committee.