Israeli Army Inflated Figures on ultra-Orthodox for Years to Meet Draft Targets

Some of the army’s reported statistics were more than double the actual numbers, public radio reports, but IDF denies allegations of 'forgery for malicious purposes'

An ultra-Orthodox man standing by the recruitment office of the IDF in Jerusalem, December 2, 2019
Emil Salman

The Israeli army inflated its its statistics on drafting ultra-Orthodox Jewish soldiers for years, in order to meet targets imposed on it. Kan Bet public radio reported Wednesday that some of the figures the army presented, in part to deflect criticism of low conscription rates, were more than double the actual numbers.

The Israel Defense Forces' spokesman denied the report, and the army's Manpower Directorate head Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz said it was a mistake. Allegations of "forgery for malicious purposes are wrong," he stressed.

In 2011 the army drafted 600 ultra-Orthodox but reported 1,200, Kan Bet found. In 2017 the army said it drafted 3,070 Haredim.

A year later an administration for ultra-Orthodox in the army was set up, and upon checking the figures, found that in 2017 the army had drafted only 1,650 Haredim. At this point, according to the report, the administration was asked to increase the numbers in order to meet the fabricated statistics.

In the interview with Kan Bet, Almoz referred to a report that shows that the lists the army provided included non-ultra-Orthodox and non-religious people. "Mistakes may have been made on the number of non-ultra-Orthodox people," he said, "the vast majority of them are people who lead an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle and testify that they are learning, and it is wrong that they do not comply with the law."

He added that the IDF is considering establishing an external review team.

The IDF spokesman said the army recently discovered a mistake in counting the number of ultra-Orthodox soldiers in recent years. Upon learning of the mistake, he added in a statement, lessons were learned about the criteria for counting the Haredi soldiers and regarding the entity responsible for that count. The official figures for the 2018 draft, which ended in June 2019, aren’t available yet.

Knesset member Elazar Stern of Kahol Lavan, formerly the commander of the army’s Manpower Directorate, told Kan Bet radio that nobody has a political interest in making false presentations to the Knesset.” he claimed that the person responsible for rigging the figures was “some major who was given the mission of meeting the target” and added that in his opinion, it’s impossible to forge the figures by hundreds of percent.

Knesset member Orna Barbivai, also of Kahol Lavan and former head of the army’s Manpower Directorate, called via Twitter on the army to "check itself immediately and thoroughly."