Double Standard?
Israelis back draft for haredim - but not Israeli Arabs

Two-thirds of Jews back drafting young haredi men into IDF - but mostly oppose extending draft to Arab community.

David Rosenberg , | updated: 2:52 PM

Haredi soldiers from Nahal Haredi
Haredi soldiers from Nahal Haredi

Following weeks of demonstrations by members of the anti-draft Yerushalmi Faction across the country to protest the arrest of haredi draft-dodgers, a new poll shows that more than two-thirds of Israeli Jews back the compulsory conscription of young haredi men into the IDF.

According to a new poll published Tuesday by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute’s Guttman Center, Israeli Jews remain unsympathetic to the Yerushalmi Faction’s goal of a comprehensive exemption for the haredi community, even as support for such an exemption for Israeli Arabs remains high.

The Yerushalmi Faction, led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, has demanded haredi Jews be exempted from army service, and launched a series of mass protests and road-blocking demonstrations across the country in response to the arrest of yeshiva students. Presently, full-time yeshiva students are offered draft deferments by the army, effectively allowing most to avoid the draft so long as they remain registered with a yeshiva.

Despite the Yerushalmi Faction’s demands, however, the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews back compulsory service for haredi men, with 68.7% expressing support for the haredi draft, compared to just 30% who oppose it. Israeli Arabs were evenly divided on the issue, with 42.1% backing compulsory service for haredi men, and 42.0% opposing it.

While support for universal IDF service for Israeli Jews is high, few support extending the obligation of mandatory army service to all Israeli citizens. Just 31.6% of Israeli Jews and 9.2% of Arabs say they back drafting young Arab men, with 63.8% of Jews and 88.5% of Arabs opposed.

The controversy over the IDF draft and whether it should be applied equally to all sectors of Israeli society has led to proposals for an end to mandatory service and the transitioning to a professional army

The proposal, which has the backing of some civil libertarians and organizations like the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, is modeled on the US military’s shift from a conscription-based model to a volunteer force, following the end of the draft in 1973.

Israeli Jews and Arabs are divided on the idea, with an overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs backing the plan, but just over one-third Jews endorsing such a move. According to the survey, Jewish Israelis oppose adoption of a professional, volunteer-based model for the IDF by a margin of 58.6% to 37.6%. Israeli Arabs, on the other hand back the idea 71.3% to 21%.

Another strongly polarizing issue is the moral conduct of the IDF, which received extremely high marks from Israeli Jews, but middling to poor marks from Arabs.

On a scale of one to five, with five being excellent and one being mediocre, 50% of Israeli Jews ranked the IDF’s moral conduct at five, compared to just 11% of Israeli Arabs who gave the IDF the highest ranking. A full 29.5% of Arabs gave the IDF a one, the lowest possible ranking, compared to just 2.5% of Jews.

Overall, 78% of Israeli Jews and 21.2% of Arabs rated the IDF’s moral conduct as good or excellent (four or five), while 10% of Jews and 19.6% of Arabs rated it as average (three), and 6% of Jews and 40.8% of Arabs rated it as below average or poor (two or one).