Treasury vs. the IDF in Battle Over ultra-Orthodox

Incoming IDF chief of staff Yoav Galant has made one of his goals the drafting of more Haredim into the army; proposal faces opposition from Finance Ministry.

Yoav Galant will be taking over as chief of staff in four months, but he's already setting goals for himself in his new post as leader of the Israel Defense Forces. One is to draft more Haredim into the army.

Sources near Galant say he views drafting more ultra-orthodox as key to Israel's future. It would be good for the army, which is short on technical manpower and people competent in computers and logistics. Galant believes some Haredim not suited for the yeshiva life could be recruited and trained for such jobs. The rabbis are amenable, as long as the practice isn't shouted from the rooftops: If asked in public for their opinion, they have to express their opposition.

Ultra-Orthodox IDF recruits

Galant's associates say he believes that drafting the Haredim would benefit society at large and the economy. After their service, armed with technical training, they could join the civil workforce and earn a decent living, precluding the need to rely on government handouts as many do now. Galant believes all this is doable, sources say, because it's the consensus, stated or not, and he has the organizational abilities to carry it out.

Indeed, one aspect is already in place: pay. The Finance Ministry has already agreed to pay Haredi soldiers more than the average soldier, since many are married and have children by the time they enlist or soon after enlisting. Meanwhile, the state would save itself the cost of supporting these young men through kollel, or yeshiva for married men.

But at the end of the day, the Finance Ministry would have a bill to foot, and it turns out that Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has different opinions. He thinks the Haredim should continue to be exempted from army service so they can leave the kollels and find jobs. The army can continue to function without the ultra-Orthodox, he says, but if the Haredim don't start working, the economy will suffer.

The solution is to draft Haredi teens to ordinary army service just like other Israelis. It is unthinkable that they be allowed to serve only where there is no chance of injury, or death, in battle. That would be absolutely unfair. If that can't be done, then at least Galant's suggestion is better than Steinitz's. If we go Galant's route, the Haredim would both develop professions and serve in the army, too, which is still the great melting pot of Israeli society.