Minister accused of 'deceiving public' over haredi enlistment figures

Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) said that haredi enlistment has risen over the past year.

Haredi protest in Jerusalem against draft (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Haredi protest in Jerusalem against draft
Despite claims by Science Minister Yaakov Peri on Sunday that haredi conscription has risen over the past year, statistics reported by IDF officials to the Knesset oversight committee for the recently approved law for haredi conscription showed an opposite trend in the sector in 2014.
Peri, who chaired the ministerial committee that initially drafted the legislation, made his comments after a ministerial oversight committee convened on Sunday.
His office released statistics for haredi conscription between July 2013 and July 2014 which showed in total a 39 percent rise in the number of haredi men drafted into the IDF over the figures for the previous year.
However, the conscription rate for the second half of 2013, before the law was passed, was significantly higher than that in the first half of 2014, when the haredi leadership waged a strong battle against the law which was finally passed in March.
In July this year the Knesset oversight committee for the implementation of the law heard from IDF officials that between July and December 2013 inclusive, 1,235 ultra-Orthodox men were drafted into the IDF. But from January to June 2014 inclusive, just 737 were drafted, a decline of 40% over the previous six-month period.
The decrease following the actual passage of the legislation in the Knesset in March was even greater. Between January and March 2014, 443 haredi men were drafted into the IDF, but just 294 were drafted between April and June 2014.
Peri was correct in saying that this represents an increase of 18% over conscription figures for the first half of 2013. However, if haredi conscription continues at this rate, government targets established in the new law – which requires that 2,000 ultra-Orthodox men be drafted over the course of the coming year – will be missed.
Peri said on Sunday that the statistics showed that “we are witnesses to the beginning of a social revolution in Israel,” despite “warnings and anger from extremists in the haredi community and predictions of failure for the new framework.”
The director of the Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group, Reform Rabbi Uri Regev, pointed out that Peri had utilized the same statistics published two months ago in the Knesset oversight committee.
“I call on the government to stop deceiving the public.
The law for haredi conscription caused great damage to haredi enlistment, and it must be hoped that the great haredi support for Operation Protective Edge will rectify this somewhat.”
The haredi community demonstrated hitherto unseen expressions of support for the IDF and the military operation in Gaza during July and August and has given increased hope that the cause of bringing about greater participation in national service programs in the ultra-Orthodox community can still be achieved.
A fierce public campaign was waged against IDF conscription during the legislative process for the new law, culminating in a demonstration of several hundred thousand haredim in Jerusalem who pledged not to be drafted under the circumstances.
Peri’s office did not respond to a request for comment.