Top Officer: Reverse Plan to Cut Length of Israeli Military Service

In wake of Israel-Gaza fighting, officer says scheduled plan to shorten men's mandatory service by four months isn't such a great idea.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Israeli soldiers walk near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return from Gaza on August 4, 2014. Credit: AFP
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israel-Gaza fighting of the past month indicates that the Israeli army must reverse a plan to reduce the length of mandatory military service, a General Staff officer in the Israel Defense Forces said Monday.

Military service for Israeli men was scheduled to be shortened from 36 months to 32 months, starting with soldiers joining the army in July 2015, in accordance with a Knesset committee decision reached in February.

"The shortened service must be reversed – there is no question," the General Staff officer said Monday.

The fighting may be recent, but the objection was expressed shortly after the Shaked committee came out with its decision. The army said at the time that the decision would cause a shortage of more than 9,000 soldiers, including among combat soldiers.

The army had hoped the shortened service for men would be balanced by significantly longer service for women, who serve two years, and for religious men who serve in the hesder program combining Torah study with 16 months in the army, which the committee increased by an additional month.

A shortened service for men was first approved by the Olmert government in 2006, but the idea was shelved after the Second Lebanon War later that year. It was based on the recommendations of a committee headed by Avi Ben Bassat, which presented a new model for mandatory service under which men and women alike would serve two years, with the service period for men reduced in two stages.

The four-month reduction scheduled to begin next year was supposed to be the first of those phases.

At the time, the committee recommended that the government retain the right to defer the second reduction "if the security situation worsens."

The army is preparing a 2 billion shekel to 3 billion shekel plan to improve the equipment used by the ground forces, based on its analysis of the past month's fighting in Gaza.

The plan calls for increasing the number of Namer reinforced armored personnel carriers, after seven Golani Brigade soldiers were killed in Gaza last month in an APC that was manufactured in the 1960s, and expanding the use of an armor defense system to intercept anti-tank missiles. The army also plans to equip troops with more accurate artillery, including rockets and mortar shells.

The improvements would "lead to an astonishing jump in the capability of the ground forces," a senior officer said.

"If I were asked where I would put money to make our maneuvering [capability] stronger?" the officer said. "Armored combat vehicles and [armor] defenses. That would make our maneuverability unstoppable."

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