Memorial day, IDF soldier - Reuters - 8.5.11
An IDF soldier standing at attention at the Iron Dome missile defense system near Ashkelon, during the one-minute siren marking the start of Memorial Day on May 8, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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The chairman of the committee that wants mandatory military service shortened says the time has come to implement the proposal. Hebrew University economics professor Avi Ben-Bassat says any further delay would undermine soldiers' motivation and erode the Israel Defense Forces' effectiveness.

Dr. Ben-Bassat, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, presented a new study on the issue at the Caesarea Economic Policy Planning Forum this week.

The recommendations of his committee, appointed in 2006 by then-Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, were adopted by the government early that year. The committee's recommendations were described as revolutionary. But the reform was put on hold following the shock of the Second Lebanon War.

Ben-Bassat's model calls for a shorter conscription period for men - two years instead of three. The two-year conscription period for women would remain unchanged. The cut would be done in three stages and be based on efficiency increases.

At the same time, efforts would be made to limit draft-dodging and the granting of unfair exemptions. Ben-Bassat also recommends that women take on more roles currently dominated by men. He would also cancel special programs such as those for yeshiva students, and avoid using soldiers for civilian duties.

Initially, the proposal envisions an immediate drop to 32-month conscription for men. The IDF would determine which soldiers it needs for the full three years.

Combat troops or those with special technical skills would stay on for 36 months. But these soldiers would be compensated in line with the salary for a 21-year-old civilian. For those four months, soldiers would receive NIS 21,000.

Ben-Bassat proposes that NIS 115 million fund the manpower cut annually. He says that if more than 20 percent of soldiers served a shorter conscription period, the IDF could use the savings for other purposes.

At the end of the second and third stages, the army would move to a two-year conscription period, with fair compensation for those staying on longer.

Ben-Bassat says the most effective and cheapest way to meet Israel's requirement for a large and quality military during an emergency "is the creation of economic incentives for greater efficiency: shorter mandatory service and more alternatives such as technology."

He says the time has come to implement the 2006 report because the status quo undermines equality and the well-being of the country's young people. It also eats away at Israel's economy.

Ben-Bassat says that five years ago only 58 percent of men completed their three-year mandatory service. This percentage has since decreased due to men's exemptions for religious reasons.