Israeli Army Deliberately Skewed Haredi Draft Figures, Committee Finds

According to special committee appointed by chief of staff, for the period in question, more than half the soldiers drafted as Haredim did not meet the legal requirements of the definition or maintained an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle

Israeli police scuffle with ultra-Orthodox Jews as they block a main road during a protest against Israeli army conscription, in Jerusalem, on October 19, 2017.
Ariel Schalit,AP

The committee examining the inflated figures for the military’s drafting of ultra-Orthodox Jews found that the distortion stemmed from a deliberately broad interpretation of who belongs to the community.

According to the findings by the military committee released Thursday, the distortion was also the result of serious negligence in the counting, but there was no evidence of financial motives, criminality or political pressure put on the military.

For the period in question, the committee estimates that more than half the soldiers who were drafted as Haredim did not meet the legal requirements of this definition or did not maintain a Haredi lifestyle.

According to the findings, between 2013 and 2018, the military missed its draft targets for the Haredi community, contrary to what the Defense Ministry reported. Around 800 of the 4,000 enlistees registered as Haredi in 2016 and 2017 did not know they were registered as such. Some were women and non-Jews.

The committee did not find that senior commanders gave orders to distort the figures to meet draft quotas. The panel had been appointed by the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Aviv Kochavi.

The committee recommends that the law’s definition of Haredi be amended, that the exemption age for members of the community be gradually lowered, that the IDF Manpower Directorate set up a proper counting mechanism, that the Defense Ministry establish a digital database and that no figures on the Haredi draft be reported until these recommendations are implemented.

The ultra-Orthodox community makes up about 12 percent of the population, but it is not always easy to determine if a religious Jew should be classified as Haredi or a member of the broader Orthodox community.

According to the report, the senior command at the Manpower Directorate did not show much interest in examining the figures; it was keen to meet its targets and did not provide proper oversight.

Also, the army continued with this approach despite a key ruling in 2017, when the High Court of Justice struck down a law on drafting the Haredim and mentioned the military’s broad interpretation of who is a member of the community.

In early December, Kan Bet public radio reported that the military inflated its statistics on drafting the Haredim for years in order to meet its targets. It said that in some cases the army was reporting more than double the actual number.

The IDF spokesman denied the report, with the head of the Manpower Directorate, Moti Almoz, saying that allegations of “forgery for malicious purposes are wrong.”

In the report Thursday, the IDF said Almoz would be reprimanded, as would a brigadier general at the directorate on retirement vacation, Eran Shani.

The previous head of the manpower planning department, a colonel, will also be reprimanded and his promotion will be delayed a year.