Israeli army 'lied' about numbers of Orthodox Jewish soldiers

Israeli army 'lied' about numbers of Orthodox Jewish soldiers
3 min read
04 December, 2019
A report conducted by an Israeli public broadcaster has revealed that the IDF nearly doubled figures of the number on Ultra-Orthodox Jewish enlisted, provoking the ire of Israel's secular majority
Ultra-Orthodox Jews prepare for a military graduation ceremony in May 2013 [Getty]
The Israeli millitary has sparked outrage among the secular core of society, after a media report revealed the numbers of Ultra-Orthodox enlisted had been inflated.

Already a sensitive political subject, public radio broadcaster Kan on Wednesday claimed that the military had "doubled or even tripled" the numbers of Ultra-Orthodox drafted in recent years.

The Israeli army has since launched an investigation into how the numbers collected.

According to Kan, the army drafted 600 Ultra-Orthodox Haredim in 2011 but reported 1,200.

Six years later, the army purported to have drafted 3,070 Ultra-Orthodox while an administration set up for the Haredim - another name for the religious group - within the army had the figure at 1,650.

The report claims that the Israeli military increased numbers to deflect criticism and meet the targets imposed by a 2014 draft law aimed at increasing Haredi enlistment.

Draft exemptions for Ultra-Orthodox have provoked resentment among Israel's secular Jewish majority, for whom enlistment is mandatory.

Israel's military manpower directorate, headed by Major General Moti Almoz, has described the revelation as amounting to little more than an error on the army's part. The figures provided had apparently included "non-ultra-Orthodox and non-religious people".

According to Maj. Gen. Almoz the inflated numbers were not so much evidence of malpractice within the Israeli army, but more the question of interpreting "who is ultra-Orthodox".

Issues of religion and state have proved highly contentious during the Israel's two parliamentary elections this year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the great enabler of Haredi power, appeared to have secured a mandate among Ultra-Orthodox voters to form a government back in May.

Yet talks to form a coalition government collapsed following refusal to do so by Avigdor Liberman and the secular-right wing Yisrael Beytenu.

Liberman's key grievance was the implementation of the draft law which obligated Haredi men to enlist in Israel’s military service.

While Ultra-Orthodox parties sought a softening of the law, Liberman wanted it left as it was.

The 2014 reforms were met with a backlash of opposition and protest from within the Haredi community who have historically enjoyed blanket exemptions in favour of study at Yeshivas, Jewish religious seminaries.

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