IDF: Ultra-Orthodox recruits can plug gap in technical units (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Amos Harel 06/10/12)
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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are
monitoring the committee´s work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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