Despite mandatory conscription

IDF Statistics: One in Six Israeli Men Doesn't Complete Full Military Service

Dropout rates among men stand at around 16%, with the rate for women at 7.5%; Personnel Directorate attributes difference in dropout rates to personality and length of men and women's service time.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

One in every six men drafted into the Israel Defense Forces does not complete his full three years of military service, internal IDF figures show. The main reasons for dropping out are "inappropriateness" for military service, and both physical and mental health problems.

Dropout rates among men stand at around 16%, with the rate for women at 7.5%. By comparison, during discussions held in 2006 by a committee charged with examining the possibility of shortening IDF service (headed by Prof. Avi Ben-Bassat), the IDF stated then that 18% of men and 4% of women were failing to complete their service.

The IDF Personnel Directorate attributed the difference in dropout rates at the time to differences in nature, and the length of the men and women's service time (women serve a year less at present).

An early draft of a bill compiled by the Perry Committee seeking to share the military burden, would increase women's service to 28 months, and reduce men's service to 32 months. The military would then consider shortening the service for women who do not require specialized training, and they would continue to serve for 24 months.

The IDF contains various official service tracks that entail a shortened service, including hesder yeshiva students (who number about 1,400 men ); the Nahal track (roughly 650 men and women); the Mahal track for volunteers from overseas (which includes about 250 men and women ); the Netzah Yehuda track - better known as the Nahal Haredi - which includes some 530 men, who serve for 2 years, and spend their third year studying and receiving professional training for entering the job market; as well as other special programs.

"The model of the people's army, and the idea of a mandatory draft, is alive and well. Despite the fact that talk about a professional army is sometimes heard, we continue to follow that model, and that forces us to create special frameworks and tracks of service that can accommodate various populations, including the ultra-Orthodox, but others as well," said a senior IDF officer.

Almost half the women of draft age do not enlist at all, and the figure is one in four for men. Over the years there has been a consistent drop in the percentage of both men and women eligible for the draft who actually serve, IDF statistics reveal. In 1990, 74.7% of all Israelis of draft age were drafted; this fell to 70.1% in 2000. This number reached two thirds in 2010, and IDF officials expect it to continue to fall. The IDF forecasts that it will drop to 64.5% in 2015 and 64.1% by 2020.

Just over 25% of men were not drafted in 2012: 6% for medical reasons; 2.8% because they had criminal records or did not meet the IDF's minimal requirements; 2.8% because they are living overseas; and 13.8% who received a deferment for religious reasons (in other words, full-time yeshiva students ). This year's figures are also in line with this.

As for women, 41.2% of Jewish and other women subject to the draft (not including Arab women ) did not serve at all in 2012. Of these, 35% were exempted for religious reasons; 2.2% for medical reasons; 2.3% were living overseas; 1% did not meet the IDF's minimal requirements; and 0.7% received exemptions for being married. This year's figures show that the number of exemptions for religious reasons is rising - 35.4% so far.

The IDF Spokesperson's Office said: "The IDF provides broad activities with the goal of reducing, as much as possible, the number of dropouts during their service; including harnessing the commanders, those mainly responsible for the development and fulfillment of those serving; and also the personnel authorities. In a case where a soldier is found not fit to serve, his matter is examined by the appropriate authorities and, if necessary, his service is ended."

Archive photo showing IDF soldier on Israel's border with Lebanon.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky