Israel’s government has managed to significantly increase the number of hareidi-religious yeshiva students enlisting in the IDF over the past three years, but according to a report published Wednesday by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, the number of those drafted still fell short of recruitment goals that were – by any culturally syntonic standard used to consider the situation – wildly unrealistic.
“The gap has grown through the years and the fact that the government has not convened to discuss promoting yeshiva students’ conscription goals has served to damage the government’s own goals,” wrote Shapira.
The gap became eight times larger between 2013 and 2016, from a 1.4 percent gap of 1,972 recruits compared to the goal of 2,000, to 2,850 recruits compared to the apparently overambitious goal of 3,200 – a gap of 11 percent, according to the report.
In the section of his report entitled “Defense Ministry actions to strengthen ties between youths and the IDF’ Shapira also noted, however, that the ministry delayed action on the issue of the conscription quotas because the number of recruits among haredi-religious yeshiva students was, in fact, rising annually.
But by January 2016, the government created an interministerial team to promote the goal of meeting the target enlistment quotas.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman presented the government with a plan to meet those goals in February 2017. Shapira criticized the fact that Liberman had received the multiyear plan for consideration already by April 2016, but did not present it to the government until nearly a year later. He did not explore the reasons for the delay.
“The gap has grown through the years and the fact that the government has not convened to discuss promoting yeshiva students’ conscription goals has served to damage the realization of the government’s own goals,” Shapira wrote.
While the comptroller was particularly harsh on the issue of haredi-religious recruitment, he clearly urged the government to work harder to seek ways to entice youths from the Bedouin sector to join the IDF, using more of a “carrot” rather than the “stick” he clearly had no trouble applying to Jews.
Shapira wrote in his report that not enough was to “encourage minorities in general and Bedouin youths in particular to volunteer for army service.” He also recommended that the Education Ministry work together with the defense establishment and the IDF to “delineate a program in a director-general’s circular to encourage Bedouin youths to volunteer for military service.”