The cabinet today approved the reform in recruiting the Haredi (ultra-orthodox) community to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The reform grants exemptions to all yeshiva students aged 22 and over on condition that they perform one year of national service. 23 ministers supported the measure, while Minister of Minorities Avishay Braverman (Labor) voted against, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor (Likud) and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) abstained.
The reform is in fact no different from the wholesale exemption proposed by the Gabai Committee. The only change concerns the inclusion of what the cabinet calls civic (security) service. This is in fact 12 months of voluntary service in emergency frameworks such as the Magen David Adom ambulance service, community police force or the prison service.
According to the original plan yeshiva students up to the age of 24 who were married but without children, and up to the age of 26 if they were single, were obligated to perform one year national service. Above those ages yeshiva students could perform their national service in other organizations such as Haredi non-profit organizations. But the reform approved today will require yeshiva students up to the age of 26 to undertake their national service in emergency organizations, and only above that age will they qualify for other forms of service.
Minister of Defense Ehud Barak welcomed the decision and said, "This is the right step in the right direction in allowing Haredim to be a part of carrying the national burden."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "This decision will provide for the doubling of the number of ultra-orthodox young men enrolled in national service. We are talking about doubling them within five years and we mean that most ultra-orthodox young men in their draft year will serve in national service within five years. This is a revolution, a significant revolution. It will have repercussions regarding the division of the security and economic burden in the country. It will have very great consequences for the integration of the ultra-orthodox into society and the economy."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 9, 2011
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