Barak: 50% haredim to IDF, rest to national service
By JEREMY SHARON
At Keshev Committee on replacing Tal Law, defense minister says he wants a ceiling of 10% haredi exemption for Torah studies.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Keshev Committee tasked with replacing the “Tal Law” on Thursday that the IDF and security services could make use of 50 percent of the annual intake of haredi men of military age, and that the remaining potential recruits should go to civilian service programs.
Speaking to the committee tasked with drawing up a proposal for recruiting ultra-Orthodox men into national service, Barak said the new law was crucial to several aspects of Israeli society.
“Creating a more equal share in the burden of national service; increasing the size of the workforce; increased opportunities for further education; and the “recalibration” of mechanisms for supporting religious institutions [can all be achieved] through the replacement of the Tal Law,” Barak said.
The Tal Law, which provided a legal framework for haredi men to indefinitely defer military service to pursue Torah studies, was ruled unconstitutional by the High Court of Justice back in February and will expire on August 1.
During his address to the committee, Barak also stressed the importance of conducting a dialogue with the haredi community which was not “bullying or coercive” in its manner, but instead “mature, responsible and aimed at reaching an agreed solution, as much as possible.”
“The haredi community is an essential element in the mosaic of Israeli society and the link of the state and the Jewish people to its roots,” Barak averred.
As to the specifics of the new arrangement, Barak said that the quota for those exempt from service on the basis of being exceptional Torah scholars should be no more than 10% of the total number of haredi men eligible for service in a given year.
Citing IDF statistics, Barak said that approximately half of the remainder would be able to be drafted into tracks within the military and security services.
Of these, a third could serve in active duty units such as the Nahal Haredi battalion, a third in the IDF’s Shahar track in which recruits fill advanced technological positions in the army, and a third in the police force and the prison and firefighting services.
The remaining 50% of the annual intake of haredi recruits could be drafted into civilian service programs.
Barak added, however, that the civilian service requires revisions to ensure it is providing “real benefits to society, does not steal the livelihoods of citizens and does not duplicate the civilian security services.”
Barak said that national service should remain obligatory, but that there is no desire on behalf of the state to fill prisons with people who do not fulfill their obligation to serve.
As such, he continued, the new arrangement needs to define clear benefits and rights for those who serve which will give them substantial advantages over those who refuse to do military or national service.
The defense minister added that he hoped the committee would not be deterred from creating an equilibrium between demands by the High Court of Justice and civil society to equally distribute the burden of national service; the requirements of the Israeli economy; and the public and political discourse with the haredi sector.
Barak also said that those who serve in IDF combat units should receive greater compensation for their service than those serving in other arenas of military and national service.