Economic Incentives Are the Best Way to Bring Ultra-Orthodox Jews into the IDF

In 2018, a bill was put before the Knesset to expand the number of Ḥaredim conscripted into the Israeli military, while still preserving some of the exemptions for yeshiva students. Because Avigdor Liberman—the head of the Jewish Home party—refuses to join a governing coalition absent a promise the bill will remain unchanged, while the ḥaredi parties will only join the coalition if it is modified, Benjamin Netanyahu has been unable to form a governing coalition. Thus, new elections will be held in September. The former parliamentarian Yohanan Plesner, who served on the Knesset committee that produced an earlier version of the bill, comments:

The appropriate solution [to the conscription problem] would be based on two clear principles: a significant increase in the financial compensation to all those who serve, including the ultra-Orthodox; and encouragement and incentives for the ultra-Orthodox to perform meaningful military service while still young (before age twenty-two), so that after that they can then enroll in vocational training programs and find jobs. [Currently, many choose to study rather than enter the workforce to avoid conscription, as military service is frowned upon by most Ḥaredim.] This is in sharp contrast to the situation today, one in which ultra-Orthodox men who do not serve in the IDF must remain in yeshiva until age twenty-five.

Research . . . has shown that economic and employment incentives have a positive effect on the number of yeshiva students who serve in the IDF. We should not make light of this. The number of those enlisting each year continues to increase. In 2013, 1,972 young ultra-Orthodox men enlisted in the IDF; in 2017, the figure was 3,070, an increase of 45 percent. This is a sharp rise within a short time. Quite naturally there was also a significant increase in the number of ultra-Orthodox men attending institutions of higher [secular] education. . . .

Rather than seeing a useful discussion of possible alternatives, we are witness mainly to personal attacks that threaten to sink the ship of state. Interestingly enough, the conscription law has been one of the most frequent factors in generating coalition crises in Israel, and, even though it was also the trigger for the calling for elections [in April], the recent campaign, which was appallingly personal, did not include a serious discussion of the issue.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Avigdor Liberman, IDF, Israeli politics, Ultra-Orthodox

With Talk of Annexation, Benny Gantz Sends a Message to the U.S.

Jan. 24 2020

On Tuesday, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, who is campaigning for a third time to oust Benjamin Netanyahu from the Israeli premiership, announced that if elected he will seek to annex the Jordan Valley. He added the important caveat that he wants to do so “in coordination with the international community”—a promise that, as many have pointed out, is nearly impossible to fulfill. While it is easy to speculate about the political calculations behind this pledge, Jonathan Tobin suggests that it is also intended as a message to American liberals:

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Read more at JNS

More about: Benny Gantz, Democrats, Israeli Election 2020, Jordan Valley, U.S. Politics