"A reality in which fewer and fewer young people share the burden cannot continue forever," Ashkenazi told students at the haredi campus in the Ono Academic College in Tel Aviv.
Ashkenazi said that he supports an integration of haredim in the IDF, but argued that the age of exemption must be increased. "I am in favor of integrating haredim into the army, but I think the age of exemption must be 24 or 25, not 22, unless the person has children. The decision makers are aware of our opinion. Equality must be created.
"The leadership will have to deal with this issue," the chief of staff clarified. He said the IDF had the ability to draft some 10,000 haredim within hours.
"We don't need all of them to be religion officers, but we can find suitable roles for them and integrate them properly. I am aware of their unique demands – glatt kosher food, synagogue and other characteristics. There is no reason for a haredi soldier not to live according to his faith. It's not easy, but it's part of the need to respect this population."
He spoke several hours after the government pulled from its agenda a proposal to exempt haredim from the army in exchange for national service, due to lack of time.
During the same discussion, the government approved a proposal to extend yeshiva students' allowances. In the next four years they will continue receiving full pensions, in the fifth year the allowance will be reduced to 75%, while the "revolution" announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is only expected to take place later on.
The Student Union said in response it would consider petitioning the High Court of Justice against the decision.
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