IDF: Ultra-Orthodox enlistment numbers wrong due to technicalities

Senior IDF officials explain discrepancies in figures provided for ultra-Orthodox enlistment during Knesset committee hearing.

Haredi national service enlistment 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Haredi national service enlistment 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The head of the IDF Manpower Division, Maj.-Gen Moti Almoz, said on Monday that the scandal surrounding false IDF figures for ultra-Orthodox enlistment was mostly based on the inclusion of ultra-Orthodox recruits who did not formally meet the criteria required under the law to be defined as ultra-Orthodox.
He acknowledged however that some 300 soldiers counted in 2017 were in no way ultra-Orthodox, and said that this was some form of human error although adding that how they got added was still unclear.
Almoz made his comments during a hearing of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday morning, following reports last week that the number of ultra-Orthodox recruits to the IDF was much lower than the figures provided by the army.
A follow up hearing will be scheduled when an internal investigation into how the conflicting data sets were produced is completed.
During Monday’s hearing Almoz said that the figures provided by the IDF until 2015 were accurate and based on in-depth examinations of the recruits who it was claimed were ultra-Orthodox.
He said however that the numbers presented in 2016 and 2017 included a group of recruits who did not meet the precise definition of the law regarding who is defined as ultra-Orthodox, but who in practice live an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle.
“There is a group that does not fulfil the formal definition… but when you look at this population [segment], their world is ultra-Orthodox,” said Almoz.
This was the major cause of the discrepancy in the two sets of numbers, although Almoz added that there were another 300 recruits in 2017 who were counted as ultra-Orthodox but who should not have been included at all in the count.
He said this could have been “a professional mistake” or due to “a lack of attention.”
Almoz said that in 2017 it had been the ultra-Orthodox directorate within the IDF Manpower Division that had been in charge of counting the number of ultra-Orthodox recruits, and asserted that this was problematic, and that the IDF unit responsible for counting all minority groups in the army should have also be responsible for counting the ultra-Orthodox enlistees.
Almoz said that when calculating the figures for 2018, in which only the strict definition of the law was used, it was discovered that there was a problem in the 2016 and 2017 numbers, which led to the media reports of the issue.
In a note of criticism, committee chairman MK Gabi Ashkenazi said that it had been a mistake of the IDF not to report these issues as soon as they became clear.
“We have full trust in the army, but it was a mistake not to report to the committee immediately when you discovered [the problem],” said Ashkenazi.
The head of the Planning and Research Department of the IDF Manpower Directorate, Brig.-Gen Amir Vadmani, insisted that the IDF had not in any way intended to deceived anyone as to the true number of IDF recruits.
“We are not liars, forgers or inflaters of statistics,’ Vadmani stated.
“When we understood there was a gap [in the numbers] we immediately put it on the table. Unfortunately the [media] reports got there ahead of us.”