A reservist, M., was severely punished last week for following an order, and in effect, because he volunteered. He broke an unwritten article in the military law, amended version and didn't dodge service. When he was called up under an emergency order for Operation Defensive Shield, he went; and when he was called up a few months later, he went again. His first response excited the IDF, winning him a special bonus. The second time he showed up, the army was angry. As Passover approached, he was told by the Payroll Administration (their slogan is "we do everything to make sure you get everything") that he was eligible for a special compensation, because he served more than 26 days in the entire year, but they were deducting half the amount because he already received the unit bonus for Operation Defensive Shield. Payroll didn't forget to wish the soldier and his family a happy holiday.
At first, M. was angry and insulted. He felt Payroll was doing everything it could to give him a fit. Then he decided the IDF is like a supermarket that doesn't allow doubling up on coupons for double the discount. You can get a grant, a bonus or an extra payment, but not all of them. They want to attract customers, or, in the military version, forces, but not at a losing price. Just like in the supermarket, M. said to himself, only without the super savers membership card.
That was his mistake. There is a club card in the army that could be called the "Bye-bye and Bonus." The card allows colonels, for example, to wait until they reach the age of retirement, not much after 40, to get out of the career army and start receiving a respectable pension, more than NIS 10,000 a month, and then to continue in their previous army jobs as civilians with a colonel's salary. That's a double salary, and even after losing a third of the pension, for the sake of the "public coffers," it's still a salary and a half. A brigadier general who doesn't find some suitable civilian work can have himself called up into reserves under the same conditions as if he were back at his career, "to write a corps' headquarters procedure" (two days a month) and benefit twice.
This outrageous behavior is not very widespread, but the general phenomenon of IDF retirees going into civvies to get senior staff salaries from the Defense Ministry in a job similar, if not identical, to what they did while in uniform, is not unusual. And since the Mossad, Shin Bet and police are linked to the IDF like the Quartet, it turns out an officer can change his address in the defense establishment and get two salaries a month delivered month after month to his bank account. Certain chiefs are allowed to raise by 10 percent the last salary, which determines the pension, of a retiring officer and use that in thousands of cases - a clear hint to those who might dare to provoke the heads of the establishment who have the authority to grant that bonus.
The largest corps in the army is the corps of retirees. Women soldiers are posted to the "Team," the lobby of the retirees. The distortions don't get anyone grumbling, because it's not nice to talk with your mouth full. The Defense Ministry Comptroller, a retired brigadier general, got his civilian job when he retired from the army. Preferred army judges and lawyers get thousands of shekels bonus a month that their commanders arranged for them because the lawyers threatened they'd just as soon prefer to leave the army and become justices of the peace (more proof that security comes before peace). There's no essential difference between them or a Mossad draftsman and that golden librarian at the Bank of Israel, who has become the denigrated hero of the public sector wages scandal.
Salaries for senior officers rose by tens of percent in recent years. For the major generals, it was nearly doubled. As the chief of staff's compensation grew, so did the compensation for the former chief of staff, now the defense minister. "The person in charge of the career army retirement law is the defense minister," wrote Nir Gilad, the treasury's accountant general in a letter recently to attorney Amnon Lorch, who has been campaigning against the scandal of Shaul Mofaz's upgraded departure date from the army. "The defense budget includes the cost of the retirees and the minister is responsible for appointing the person responsible for implementing the law," wrote Gilad. With a copy to former chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, defense minister.
The defense budget, like a statue in the plaza, is forged in the past. After Iraq, the IDF's structure and its financing are crying out for a new perspective that should not be left in the hands of the career officers and the retirees.
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