Social Groups Target Ehud Barak in Renewed Push for Universal Draft

Dozens of social groups and NGOs intend to resume campaign for universal conscription, arguing that failure to recruit ultra-Orthodox men to IDF is an infraction of the law.

Dozens of social groups and NGOs intend to resume the campaign for universal conscription, this time focusing on Defense Minister Ehud Barak as the one responsible for the failure to draft ultra-Orthodox men.

The failure to recruit ultra-Orthodox men to the IDF is an infraction of the law, the organizations, who led the pro-universal draft campaign, wrote to Barak.

The organizations, consisting of Hamahane Hameshutaf, the Students Union, Hiddush, Yad Labanim, the Students and Youth Council and several others, demanded an explanation from Barak for not beginning to draft ultra-Orthodox men. Barring an explanation, the campaign organizers said they would hold Barak responsible for the failure.

Since the expiry in August of the Tal Law exempting ultra-Orthodox men from military service and the absence of an alternative law, all Israeli citizens must join the army.

Barak has appointed a team to examine the draft's implications and instructed the IDF to submit a proposal for recruiting ultra-Orthodox men within one month. But more than a month has passed and the draft has not begun, the organizations say.

The IDF prepared a plan, to be implemented as of March, to set up new units for ultra-Orthodox men, as well as national service. The plan, estimated to cost some NIS 500 million, is not likely to be implemented on schedule if, as seems increasingly likely, elections are pushed up.

"According to our sources, a plan has been drafted but is not being carried out because of your decision not to advance it...By so doing you are turning the IDF into a transgressor in not recruiting some 55,000 yeshiva students who are due to join the army," the social groups wrote.

They said Barak's is causing "a moral, legal and social injustice. The discrimination between the minority serving in the army and the majority evading service is harming Israel's security."

The Defense Ministry responded that "from the moment the Tal Law expired the law requires all military service candidates (including ultra-Orthodox ones) to report to the enlistment centers. The IDF will submit its recommendations regarding the ultra-Orthodox draft immediately after the Sukkot holiday."