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IDF: Ultra-Orthodox recruits can plug gap in technical units (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Amos Harel 06/10/12) Source: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/idf-ultra-orthodox-recruits-can-plug-gap-in-technical-units-1.435374
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Technical units in the Israel Defense Forces, particularly in the Israel Air Force, are hundreds of soldiers short and need immediate reinforcements. Army officials believe ultra-Orthodox recruits could fill these positions. This was one of the messages conveyed by Personnel Directorate officials to members of the Knesset committee that is evaluating ways to increase Haredi enlistment.
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The IDF says overall enlistment has declined by a few thousand every year since the middle of the previous decade, mainly due to the rise in service deferrals for Haredi men in these years. The trend is not expected to reverse itself until the middle of the current decade.
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The army believes it has done as much as it can to stem the reduction in the numbers of soldiers assigned to combat and technology assignments using measures such as issuing fewer waivers due to mental or physical health considerations. Another factor contributing to staffing problems is the decline in graduates from vocational high schools.
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Around 380 ultra-Orthodox men currently serve in technology positions in Haredi units in the IAF, which has made preparations that should make it possible to increase that number to 1,000 within a year or a year and a half. Until then, the air force will have to use outside firms to close the gaps.
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The committee, chaired by MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima ), was established to evaluate alternatives to the Tal Law, the legislation stipulating the terms for Haredi military service that was recently declared unconstitutional by the High Court of Justice. It is expected to submit its recommendations for a successor to that law by the end of the month, with an eye to passing the new law by the end of July, before the Knesset starts its summer recess.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are monitoring the committee´s work.
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Haredi representatives on the Plesner Committee have said during the sessions that they will not permit the state to interfere with the considerations of their yeshiva students. Specifically, they have said they will not support the committee´s recommendations if these young men are stripped of their right to choose whether to enlist or to continue their religious studies.
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The Haredi representatives say their community is already changing for the good, with more young people entering the labor market and the army, and that coercion by the state would put it on a collision course with the ultra-Orthodox community.
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Committee members from non-Haredi parties, meanwhile, stress the importance of gradual steps to increase Haredi enlistment, including the use of draft quotas - or targets, a more flexible term that could also include the addition of incentives.
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Negative incentives, in the form of financial sanctions against yeshivas that prevent their students from enlisting and making yeshiva heads criminally responsible for submitting false enrollment reports to the state, may also be considered.
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The goal of all of these is to offer Haredi men a broad menu of choices, including various Haredi-only units and different types of civil and national service.
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The issue of the quota, or numerical target, is considered particularly sensitive. The committee will presumably be asked to recommend a percentage of yeshiva students - between 5 percent and 20 percent - who will receive a total waiver from service to their state on account of their outstanding talent for religious study.
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One possibility already being considered is for the committee to issue a majority report in the likely event that the Haredi representatives will not agree with these relatively low percentages. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 06/10/12)
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