The Military Advocate General is preparing legislation to increase the pensions of officers and non-commissioned officers from the Israel Defense Forces who were convicted of crimes and demoted in rank. The changes would apply to career soldiers who are entitled to a budgetary pension paid by the state.
In such cases, the soldier makes no contributions out of their pay toward their pensions, and the pensions are calculated based on multiplying the number of years served by 2 percent of their final salary. For example, someone who served 25 years in the IDF would receive half their final salary as a pension for the rest o their lives.
Because of this calculation, the level of the final salary is of major financial import. In 2004, the IDF switched all soldiers entering the professional army to defined contribution pensions, in which the soldiers final pension is based on the amounts saved over their entire careers.
But the large majority of officers and NCOs are still covered by the state-paid budgetary pensions, and the total future commitment by the state for these pensions in the defense establishment is estimated at some NIS 253 billion.
Soldiers in the professional army who were demoted in rank through court martials or criminal proceedings are hurt by this system of pensions, since their salary is reduced along with their rank. That is one of the reasons demotion is considered such a serious punishment − and rarely used. Military judges take this financial harm into account before sentencing. For example, in August 2012, a military court decided not to demote a colonel from the Ordinance Corps who received a number of bicycles for his unit to use, and took one home and gave another to another officer in return for a budgetary transfer. The military prosecutor asked for a demotion, but the judges said this was too harsh a punishment and would be “out of proportion” to the crime committed.
The Military Advocate General is now preparing new rules which would remove the pension issue from the question of demotion. A possibility is that a one-level demotion would not affect pensions under the new rules and another is that a two-level demotion would cost the equivalent of only a one-level demotion for pension purposes.
Some officials involved say they want to protect the soldiers’ families who are seriously harmed in such cases, and others want to help the army keep soldiers from leaving, as most of those who are demoted immediately leave. The IDF has another process for reducing the pensions of those who committed serious crimes, such as taking bribes. A committee of the Manpower Directorate can act in such cases, though this is quite rare.
In any case, such changes will require the Knesset to pass legislation. The IDF Spokesman’s Office said: “Staff work is being done on the matter in the Military Advocate General’s office and no decision has yet been made.”