Statements made by President Shimon Peres Wednesday in favor of exempting yeshiva students from IDF service sparked furor among anti-draft-dodging activists. The Israeli Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden sent a harsh protest letter to the president on Thursday.
During his visit in the Ponevezh yeshiva Peres said, "I am very proud that the State and the IDF have agreed to release the young people who are dedicating their lives to their studies."
Forum chairwoman and mother to a combat soldier Miri Baron wrote in the letter, "We marvel at your statements which encourage discrimination between the blood of our children and the blood of haredim, encourage draft-dodging among secular youth, support the Arab-Israelis' refusal to engage in civil service and mainly hurt soldiers both materially and morally."
Baron urged Peres to make his stance be known publicly. "In your statements you are compromising the principles on which the State of Israel was created, hurting democracy and mainly sabotaging social solidarity."
Peres' statements also prompted anger among other parents from the forum. "We are astounded at the president, who could have served as a mediating figure in society and instead has chosen to take a unilateral stance which has significantly hurt soldiers and their families," Dana Halpern, the mother of a combat officer, told Ynet.
Retired Captain Roi Ron, chairman of the Baltam reserve troops foundation also condemned Peres. "The president's remarks are outrageous. His statements might have been valid in 1948 when only 400 haredim were given an exemption. In the current security climate, in light of the Iranian front on one end and the Syrian-Hezbollah front on the other, no person should make statements legitimizing the exemption of tens of thousands of haredim from military service, particularly not the president."
'President support full IDF service'
The president's communications director Ayelet Frish stated in response, "President Shimon Peres endorses full IDF service and promotes together with the security establishment comprehensive plans to recruit haredim to the army and their training.
"During his visit in Bnei Brak the president referred to prime minister David Ben Gurion's historic decision to allow a limited number of citizens to attend yeshivot. One should not read anything else into this statement."
Frish further noted that Peres' stance regarding the recruitment of members of the ultra-Orthodox sector in the army has not changed over the years and pointed to a visit he held in the military indiction center on Sunday, during which he advocated combat service by all sectors of society.