Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "this is revolution with far-reaching effects on the integration of haredim in society, the economy and bearing the national burden equally."
Later the PM said, "We will not allow a growing percentage of the Israeli public to dodge military service under the motto of 'Torah is his profession'. The State of Israel would not be able to take it. That is why I brought forward the changes proposed today, so that a reverse process can begin."
Defense Minster Ehud Barak also welcomed the decision: "This is the right step in the right direction. The reforms will improve some haredim's preparedness for integration into the work force and will promote a gradual change in haredi society's attitude towards the IDF and the State.
"The IDF and the defense establishment welcome participation in this national task and give it their full backing. The true test will be in the implementation, and it is essential that every effort be made to implement it."
Today's government meeting (Photo: AP)
Two of Barak's party colleagues received the initiative with less enthusiasm, in addition to Braverman who voted against the reforms, Minister Benjamin Ben- Eliezer abstained. Minister Dan Meridor (Likud) also chose to abstain.
According to the reforms, 2,400 haredi yeshiva students will be recruited this year, half to the IDF and half to civil or national service. Next year the number will increase to 3,000. In 2013 the government intends to recruit 3,600 haredi yeshiva students.
IDF data state that there were an estimated 5,500 18-year-old haredim in 2010 and that number is set to grow to 7,400 by 2015. The inter-ministerial team which formulated the recommendations, led by Prime Minister's Office chief Eyal Gabai, stated that the goal was to have 65% of every haredi class to serve in the IDF or national service by the time they're 28-years-old.
The opposition attacked the plan claiming that Prime Minister Netanyahu was "allowing haredim to dodge military service in exchange for coalition survival. This is a cynical ploy meant to deceive the High Court."
"Netanyahu is trading in military recruits and turning their service into coalition currency. For the first time in the history of the State a prime minister is giving a shameless political stamp of approval to IDF dodgers while trampling the values of the IDF as the people's army and the importance of bearing the burden equally. Netanyahu has fooled his ministers but he won't be able to fool the public," the Kadima party stated.
The Masorti movement expressed its condemnation in light of the government's approval of the plan. "There is no limit to the shame and cynicism," said Yizhar Hess, executive director and CEO of the Masorti Movement.
"This is a brilliant trick meant to convince everyone that within five years more haredim will be going to the military and receive less public funding. There is no validity to political decisions in the State of Israel and this just an attempt to scatter dust in the public's eyes," he added.
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