IDF to Dismiss 3,000 to 5,000 Career Soldiers Due to Budget Cuts

Streamlining plan, which also reduces number of tanks, aircraft, and missile ships, is guided by understanding that conventional warfare is not a likely scenario in coming years.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israel Defense Forces is planning on dismissing at least 3,000 career soldiers, and as many as 5,000, as part of its streamlining program in response to defense budget cuts. The military also plans substantially reducing its numbers of tanks, aircraft and combat ships. The IDF general staff has already drawn out the plan, but they are still awaiting government approval.

Changes will also be made to the way divisions in the standing army and the reserves operate, as well as their makeup.

The IDF has already decided where cutbacks will be implemented first: a number of Armored Corps forces using the veteran Magach tanks, upgraded versions of the American M48 and M60 Patton tanks, will be closed. The size of a command headquarters of an artillery unit and a logistical brigade will be reduced. A squadron of planes will also be closed down.

The reductions are part of plans already made as part of the IDF’s long-term planning. But two previous programs were not launched, the first time due to the social protests two years ago and last year because of the elections. But the recent cuts to the defense budget has led the IDF brass to realize that the reductions should start as soon as possible and be deeper than originally planned. For example, a planned reduction in tanks was already in the works, but were to have been implemented only at the end of the five-year plan − four years away at least.

The streamlining would free up more than NIS 7 billion of the defense budget to be redirected to high-priority areas like strengthening intelligence capabilities, maintaining the air force as a strategic arm, cyber warfare and strengthening maneuverability on land. The army also wants to upgrade its capabilities to work in what is called the “third circle” − Iran, and continued investment in its active defense systems − Iron Dome, Magic Wand and Arrow 3.

It is not only the new budgetary constraints that are behind the streamlining; it is also the reduced threat posed by conventional warfare, and the understanding that armies facing off against each other on the traditional battlefield is not a likely scenario in the coming years.

It is believed that the savings expected from the steps the army wants to take will not be immediately felt, because the closing of units also involves financial outlays.

The way the IDF’s divisions operate is also in for a change. Those on the borders − the Golan, Gaza, Sinai and Jordan − and a new division to be established in the Golan will be strengthened. The army’s assumption is that the impact of events in Syria on security in the Golan is still unknown, and the new division will be responsible for the Golan border in particular.

Division 36, now in charge of the area, will take on the most complex assignments with the most advanced tools. The IDF also wants to beef up two reserve divisions, one in the north and one in the south, which will be called up in case of emergency in those regions.

Israeli soldiers sit atop a tank as they watch the border with Syria near the Quneitra border crossing between Israel and Syria, on the Golan Heights July 3, 2013. Credit: Reuters

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