Short service / Revolution in the IDF
A revolution in compulsory military service for men is the conclusion that arises from the recommendations of a public committee that have been accepted by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and presented to Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Despite the gloomy forecasts regarding an escalation in the war on terror, the committee, headed by Prof. Avi Ben-Bassat, has recommended significantly and gradually reducing military service for men, until everyone serves for only two years.
The next step is to turn the proposal into a cabinet decision, and then secure Knesset approval.
Taken with the reductions in reserve duty that were recommended a few months ago by another public committee, headed by Prof. Avishay Braverman, we are dealing with a comprehensive revolution in military service for the country's citizens.
Both the aforementioned changes are motivated by economic factors. The panel headed by Ben-Bassat, former treasury director general, had 10 members, six of whom are considered senior economists. Just two come from a military background.
The committee passed its decisions unanimously.
The reduced service would not apply to women, who generally serve for less time than men.
The main recommendation of the Ben-Bassat committee stipulates that compulsory military service for Israel Defense Forces conscripts as of July 2006 would be reduced by four months. All soldiers currently in the IDF and who are due for discharge after July 2007 would enjoy the reduction in service time. Many would even get an eight-month reduction, serving 28 months rather than 36.
Those soldiers who do not get the eight-month reduction would instead receive respectable financial remuneration of some NIS 4,100 a month.
The Ben-Bassat committee recommends not stopping here, but repeating these arrangements in 2010 - giving combatants and essential professionals (computer operators, paramedics) another four-month reduction, and other conscripts an eight-month reduction.
The second reduction is dependent on the security situation at the time. It has been scheduled for 2010 because of the expected increase in the number of conscripts starting that year.
In their report, committee members did express concern that the gradual reduction in service would discourage individuals from volunteering for combat units because the cut in their service would be smaller. Prof. Ben-Bassat said, however, that he was sure people were sufficiently motivated to serve in combat roles even if they were asked to do longer service - for which they would receive financial compensation.
The committee stresses the economic aspects of the proposed reductions, noting that a soldier doing his compulsory service is cheap for the army but expensive for the economy.
The committee believes the IDF can become more efficient and profit if it implements the panel's recommendations correctly. If the army manages to implement the reductions in the determined time frame, it will be left with a budget to purchase equipment and sophisticated manpower replacement measures.