IDF goes to battle against draft dodging

Senior officers say that the defense establishment was in the midst of formulating a "battle plan" to combat the phenomenon.

ashkenazi flag 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ashkenazi flag 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A day after Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that the IDF was turning into an "army of half the people" due to the growing numbers of draft dodgers, senior officers said Tuesday that the defense establishment was in the midst of formulating a "battle plan" to combat the phenomenon. The IDF Judge Advocate General's Office, for example, is looking into the legality of a proposal by high school principals who have told OC Human Resources Department Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern that that are willing to submit evaluations of their graduates so the IDF can see if they are lying in their military applications. IDF sources said Tuesday that while the Human Resources Department was in favor of the principals' proposal, after a legal examination, it appeared that graduates' information was protected under Israeli privacy laws. Barak plans to meet with Stern and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi in the coming weeks to discuss ways to curb the draft-dodging phenomenon. According to updated statistics compiled by the IDF and obtained by The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, 43 percent of female high school graduates evaded the military draft this year. IDF sources said that 33 percent received exemptions after declaring they were religious. The sources warned that the number had the potential to continue growing, and that soon only one out of every two eligible young women could be serving in the IDF. "When Barak said that the IDF will turn into an 'army of half the people,' this is what he meant," a defense official explained. Ahead of the August draft, the IDF last week reported an increase in the number of teenagers dodging military service. A quarter of youth born in 1989 and scheduled to enlist in the IDF this summer are not serving in the army. Of these, some 11% received exemptions this year on the grounds of being ultra-Orthodox, an increase of 1% over last year. Seven percent did not enlist for medical reasons, including physical and mental conditions. To curb the continuing drop in numbers, the IDF is also considering hiring a number of leading public relations companies to draft an ad campaign in favor of military service and opposed to draft evasion. Meanwhile, calls on mounting within the Knesset for Barak to focus his energy on changing the Tal Law which was recently extended and allows 18-year-old yeshiva students to postpone their military service every year until the age of 22, when they are allowed to work or study for a year before deciding to return to yeshiva or join the army. The law was initially passed when Barak was prime minister. "Ehud Barak should have vetoed the proposal to extend the Tal Law," MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) said Tuesday. "This law is a disaster since it gives an exemption to the entire haredi public."