Senior military officials involved in recruiting members of the ultra-Orthodox community denied Wednesday that data was falsified in order to appear that quotas were being met.
The comment was in response to a report by Israel's national broadcaster KAN that Israel Defense Forces has for years inflated the number of ultra-Orthodox recruits in order to reach its recruitment target for the sector.
The officers said that the apparent discrepancies were down to a change in which recruits were defined as ultra-Orthodox.
Therefore, they said, less men defined as ultra-Orthodox were drafted in 2018 than in previous years and a decision was made to now view data from previous years as inflated.
According to the report, the IDF’s Haredi recruitment division was said to have essentially “forged” numbers by counting the religious (who are not ultra-Orthodox), and sometimes even secular, recruits in order to meet the needed criteria.
According to the report, the IDF previously counted non-religious recruits as ultra-Orthodox and anyone who studied for two years at an ultra-Orthodox institution or "lived an ultra-Orthodox life" was considered ultra-Orthodox. This was later changed to just those who had studied at a Haredi institution for two years.
The Kan investigation found that in 2017 the official number of Haredi recruits reported by the IDF stood at 3,070 - just 130 fewer than the recruitment target of 3,200 set by the government in 2016.
In reality, however, only 1,300 soldiers were in fact ultra-Orthodox, less than half the reported figure.
Six years prior, in 2011, the number of reported recruits stood at 1,200, while in reality only 600 soldiers were in fact from Haredi background.
In 2018, the IDF’s Haredi administration, which was established the same year, started to independently count the number of ultra-Orthodox recruits. They discovered significant gaps between their numbers and the ones officially reported by the military in the previous years.
They found that in 2018 only 1,650 ultra-Orthodox soldiers had been recruited, almost half of the figures officially reported by the military the year prior.
As a result, the head of the administration - Lt. Col. Telem Hazan - was apparently asked by the army officials to report a different number, closer to the one reported in 2017.
According to the official press release, the number of Haredi IDF recruits in 2018 stood at 2,480, a 20% drop from 2017 and 800 fewer than the 2016 recruitment target set for the military.
"The IDF recently discovered a mistake when it comes to our system of counting the ultra-Orthodox soldiers,” said the army in a statement. “Once we became aware of the mistake, we learned our lesson when it comes to setting a standard for counting the ultra-Orthodox recruits."
Both the IDF chief of staff and the defense minister have been made aware of the report about the inaccurate recruiting figures.
"The lie that was exposed this morning is particularly disturbing,” said Uri Keidar, Executive Director of Israel Hofsheet (Be Free Israel) movement.
“This numerical bluff is what led to discrimination of women in the army and what undermined the joint service order, supposedly in order to respect the large number of the ultra-Orthodox recruits,” he said.
“A government that continues to avoid addressing the issue of religion and state, will have on its hands a state that continues to lie to itself when it comes to military, marriage and public transport on Shabbat."
First published: 17:30 , 12.04.19