Gantz unveils IDF enlistment plan for ultra-Orthodox, Arabs

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz announces a fresh plan to address the roughly half of eligible Israelis who do not enlist in the Israel Defense Forces, most of them ultra-Orthodox and Arab, who are exempt from service.

According to Gantz’s plan, all Israelis will be required to perform some form of national service after high school, with the military getting first choice of the recruits. Besides the IDF, Israelis will be able to serve in the police or as educators or in other civil service roles.

This model was developed by a group called Pnina, which was recently led by the director-general of Gantz’s ministry, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amir Eshel, and is meant to both bring different groups in Israeli society together through national service and to provide them with access to training and education to help them get jobs later in life.

Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox IDF soldiers at the Peles Military Base in the Jordan Valley. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

Gantz’s proposal comes as the High Court of Justice has demanded of the government that it sort out its policies regarding the near blanket exemption of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Israelis from military service, which the court has found to be unfair and illegal under the current legislation.

Gantz says he is demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bring his proposal to a vote in the upcoming cabinet meeting on Sunday, threatening to allow the High Court of Justice to overturn the law preventing the conscription of Haredi Israelis if this does not happen.

However, it is unlikely that an interim government such as the one currently in power would be able to institute such a sweeping change to a major piece of legislation as Gantz proposes.

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