Ehud Barak
Ehud BarakReuters

Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke Thursday before the Plesner Committee. The committee is tasked with finding a replacement for the Tal Law, which allowed hareidi-religious men to avoid IDF service in favor of full-time Torah study.

Barak suggested that 10% of hareidi men be allowed to continue learning Torah under the new arrangement. The other 90% would enlist in the military or, if ineligible for military service, perform national service.

The Defense Minister cautioned against trying to force hareidi men into the army. The intent is not to fill Israel’s prisons with draft-dodgers, he said.

Instead, soldiers should be offered benefits that improve their lifestyle significantly, he suggested, providing an incentive to enlist.

The new arrangement must balance between “the Supreme Court’s requirements, society’s hope for a more equal distribution of the burden, the IDF and defense establishment’s needs, Israel’s economic needs [and] the political and societal dialogue with hareidi society,” Barak declared.

There is another factor to consider, he added. “The IDF and the defense establishment see the matter of equal distribution of the burden [of defense], and the enlistment of most hareidi youth, as incomparably important,” he started. However, he continued, “there must be coordination, so that… the IDF will maintain its place as a central element in providing equal opportunities to women.”

Women’s groups have expressed concern that integrating hareidi men into the army will drive women out of key roles. IDF programs for hareidi soldiers maintain strict gender separation.