Israel must crack down on those who shirk mandatory military service, Ehud Barak said.
Israel’s defense minister said Monday that recent data indicating that as many as 25 percent of Israelis eligible for the draft secure exemptions could have far-reaching consequences for Israeli society.
“The Israel Defense Forces is gradually being transformed from a people’s army to the army of half the people,” Barak said in a speech at Tel Aviv University. “A soldier should not have to feel that, as he goes out to battle, some in our society consider him a patsy. A society facing threats to its existence will be able to survive only if it respects those who protect it.”
The issue of military exemptions – especially those granted to the fervently Orthodox studying in yeshivas – stirred Israeli rancor anew following last year’s Lebanon war. The Defense Ministry is considering proposals for stricter criteria on who can legally evade the draft or for a more sweeping conscription policy that will allow military reservists to be relieved of duty.
“The time has come to return to the days in which serving was a privilege and an honor, and shirking was taboo,” Barak said.