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Monday, January 10, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israeli recruitment plans for ultra-Orthodox called 'significant revolution'

TEL AVIV — Israel's military is targeting the huge ultra-Orthodox Jewish community for recruitment.


The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved a plan that would double the ultra-Orthodox presence in the military. Officials said 4,800 ultra-Orthodox Jews would be drafted by 2015, about half of them for civilian service.

"It was also agreed that the Israel Defense Forces would create additional combat frameworks in order to absorb the ultra-Orthodox," a Cabinet statement said on Jan. 9.

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Officials said the military has been urging for programs that would encourage the ultra-Orthodox, the largest growing Jewish sector in Israel, to participate in the draft. They said the ultra-Orthodox would be increasingly needed to compensate for a steady decline in combat troops, Middle East Newsline reported.

For decades, the ultra-Orthodox community refused to join the military. Members of the community cited the need to learn Torah, lax enforcement of Jewish laws, sexual integration and opposition to Israeli sovereignty.

"We will not allow a growing proportion of the ultra-Orthodox public to be exempt from service ostensibly due to full-time religious studies," Netanyahu said. "The state of Israel cannot endure this."

Officials said the government has allocated nearly $35 million to accommodate ultra-Orthodox recruits in the military. They said ultra-Orthodox men as well as women would be encouraged to serve in the military's intelligence and technology units.

"This is a revolution, a significant revolution," Netanyahu said. "It will have repercussions regarding the division of the security and economic burden in the country."

On Jan. 10, Israel state radio reported that the military intelligence corps has decided to recruit 10 married ultra-Orthodox women. The report said the women would be trained in software development and allowed to bring their infants to the base.

The military has also agreed to provide ultra-Orthodox recruits with a special kosher diet, Jewish lectures and exemption from working on the Sabbath. So far, the military contains an estimated 5,500 ultra-Orthodox Jews.

"This is the right step in the right direction," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. "The true test will be in the implementation, and it is essential that every effort be made to implement it."

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