Netanyahu's Cabinet Votes to Draft More ultra-Orthodox Into IDF

Decision comes less than a month after cabinet postponed vote on proposal that would have seen many Haredim released from service in exchange for civilian work.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet on Sunday approved a plan to draft more members of Israel's ultra-Orthodox sector into performing military or national service.

The proposal was approved by an overwhelming majority of 23-1, with one abstention.

Ultra-Orthodox IDF recruits

The cabinet vote came two days after Netanyahu announced that he intended to adopt the Israel Defense Forces' stance with regard to incorporating ultra-Orthodox as soldiers.

The decision is intended to significantly augment the number of ultra-Orthodox recruits for all forms of national, civil and military service. Such a move will "promote equality and a distribution of the economic and defense burden across the population of Israeli society."

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi last month countered a recommendation to the cabinet to release most ultra-Orthodox from mandatory military service in exchange for alternative work in a civilian service. "In general, we are in favor of incorporating Haredis into the military, and, if possible, in the job market. This is important," Ashkenazi told an audience of ultra-Orthodox men in Kiryat Ono.

"Our concern lies with providing the exemption [to army service]. We think that the age for exemption should be 24-25, or younger for individuals with children," Ashkenazi said. "Equality is important here. For instance, you have a community of academics that enter army service at age 22-23. Why shouldn't they, too, enjoy an exemption?"

The cabinet last month approved recommendations of an interministerial committee to limit to five years the time yeshiva students can receive stipends. In addition, Netanyahu's office announced that 50 million additional shekels would be given to aid other students in need in conjunction with the proposals dealing with yeshiva students.

The proposal passed with 14 ministers voting in support, eight voting against, and three abstaining.

However, a vote on a recommendation to release most ultra-Orthodox from military service in exchange for alternative work in a civilian service was postponed.

To be exempt from military service according to the recommendations, Haredim would have to do a year of alternative service with the police, the Magen David Adom ambulance service, the Fire and Rescue Services or the Prison Service. The arrangement would apply to married students up to age 22 if they have no children, or bachelors over 24.