The Knesset and the government are not doing enough to combat the growing phenomenon of youth who dodge the IDF draft, OC Human Resources Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern said on Monday. Stern further revealed that the IDF was planning to enlist the help of high-school principals to assist in identifying draftees that were lying when applying for exemptions from military service.
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"I would expect that the level of importance granted to military service be represented not just in words but also in legislation," Stern said during a visit, together with IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, at the Tel Hashomer Recruitment Center. "Look and see how easy it is to get out of military service and how those who serve are looked at."
Last week, the IDF revealed - ahead of the August draft - damning statistics that showed a sharp rise in the number of teenagers dodging military service, with the total reaching 25 percent of youth born in 1989 and scheduled to enlist into the IDF this summer.
Out of the 25%, 11% received exemptions this year on grounds of being ultra-Orthodox, an increase of 1% over last year. Seven percent did not enlist due to medical reasons, including physical and mental conditions. Four percent did not enlist due to criminal records and three percent live abroad.
"I agree that something needs to be done, but I don't agree that this is only the IDF's problem," Stern said. "Israeli society needs to play a primary role here and this is a challenge for all of society."
Stern said that Israel needed a powerful and deterring army for years to come and that legislation had to be passed to ensure that this happened. Stern added that celebrities who dodged the draft did not deserve their "idol" status and that nowadays, anyone with a good doctor could get out of army service.
"I did not release them from service and I did not make them celebrities," Stern said. "I think that someone who gets out of doing military service cannot be a celebrity. It is a pity that this [military service] is not a criterion for television shows and that these people are made into youth idols."
In an effort to curb a growing trend by which secular women receive exemptions from military service by falsely claiming to be religious, Stern has also established contact with high schools and asked that they submit evaluations of draftees so the IDF can see whether their graduates are lying on their military applications.
The Human Resources Department has also been making arrangements for dealing with teenagers who insist on serving in specific fighting units while the Ground Forces Command requires more soldiers for the Armored Corps, Engineering Corps and Artillery Corps.
Ashkenazi ordered Stern to use harsher punishment for those who refuse to serve where they are assigned. "The youth will not dictate... where they serve," said Ashkenazi.