Israeli Panel Recommends IDF Discharge Thousands of Soldiers, Shorten Compulsory Service

The Locker Committee also suggests fixed defense budget and prescribes a reduction in bulging pension commitments; army opposed to panel's suggestion.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Israeli soldiers carry a comrade during a military exercise near the border of the Gaza Strip. Credit: Reuters
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

A special Israeli committee’s report on the defense budget recommends that the Israel Defense Forces discharge about 2,000 more standing-army people, lower its pension load and shorten compulsory service for men to two years from two years and eight months, military sources say.

The sources spoke to Haaretz over the past two weeks in the run-up to a news conference Tuesday on the moves, which the IDF strongly opposes. The recommendations have been made by the Locker Committee, headed by Yohanan Locker, a former military secretary to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A senior officer described the intention to cancel so-called bridge pensions for noncombat people a “bad joke,” warning that the committee’s recommendations would badly impair the army’s ability to address security challenges. Bridge pensions go to career officers from the day they leave the IDF until the legal retirement age.

Generals including Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot fear that talented officers, including those in the General Staff, would leave the army over the pension issue. There may also be a legal problem because the pension issue involves the cancellation of career officers’ “vested rights,” to use the legal jargon.

There could be a raft of petitions to the High Court of Justice; according to a General Staff officer, if the pension decision is implemented in full, about 3,500 majors would suffer.

Following are some of the panel’s main recommendations in addition to the pension issue.

* A fixed defense budget for the next five years — 59 billion shekels ($15.5 billion) annually. This sum does not include most of the U.S. military aid to Israel, which totals $3.1 billion annually.

* The discharge of about 2,000 additional career-army people. About two years ago the army chose to discharge about 5,000 career-army people; about 3,000 officers and noncommissioned officers have already left.

* A continuation of the shortening of compulsory service for men. Service is already being shortened to two years and eight months from three years for men drafted beginning next month. By 2020, service should only be two years, the committee recommends.

* Privatization. Production of the Merkava tank, the renovation of armored vehicles and high-level maintenance should be outsourced to civilian companies.

* The full implementation of the recommendations made by a separate committee, the Goren Committee. That panel recommended tougher rules for disabled-veteran status for people injured outside military service; for example, while on leave. It also recommended a stricter definition for who is a disabled veteran.

Also, the Locker Committee says the Finance Ministry and National Security Council should have broad power to help supervise IDF manpower.