High Court to Discuss Petition for Increased Pay for Israeli Soldiers

State says conscripts aren't owed salaries since the IDF is a 'people's army."

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday will hear a petition seeking to reverse a Defense Ministry decision against raising conscripted soldiers' monthly allowance.

The petition stipulates that the Israel Defense Forces should pay its conscripts a minimum wage minus the goods and services provided by the army, or approximately NIS 1,300 a month, until a law is passed delineating the scope of the stipend. The petition was filed by Amnon Lorch, a partner at the law firm Yigal Arnon, on behalf of three of his children who have served in the IDF.

IDF soldiers in non-combat units currently receive about NIS 350 a month and combat soldiers receive NIS 750. Irrespective of whether the allowance is changed, this amount will automatically rise by 21 percent on January 1 to match the cost of living index.

The increase will cost the state an estimated NIS 170 million.

The allowance, the state said, is not intended “to meet the basic needs of soldiers but rather to serve as pocket money that is meant to reward them during their military service and to provide them with a certain amount of money for miscellaneous expenses.”

The state said that since the IDF a “people’s army” rather than a professional paid army, payment should not be expected for conscripted military service.
“In principle, conscripted soldiers are not recompensed for their military service," the state said in its response to the petition. "They are not civil servants and their relationship with the state is not an employer-employee relationship; thus the state is not obligated to pay them a salary.”

A committee within the defense establishment had proposed increasing the allowance, but the increase was not approved because of budget constraints.

“It is the position of the respondents that the monthly subsistence allowance that is paid today and that will be linked to the cost of living index as of January 1, 2014, has been established in accordance with proper legal procedures and there is thus no reason for interfering with the level of those payments," the state said. "The purpose of the monthly subsistence allowance is to help maintain the soldier but it has never been an amount that would be sufficient in itself for a soldier’s maintenance.”

The Defense Ministry also said the financial benefits received by conscripts are not confined to the monthly allowance. It said it allocates tens of millions of shekels to the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers, which provides facilities such as recreation centers, gyms and synagogues, and that it provides discharged soldiers with financial assistance such as a savings deposit from the army and a cash grant totaling an estimated NIS 2 billion. Discharged soldiers are also eligible for income tax credits and other financial benefits.

The state said soldiers' parents are also compensated as needed.

“The bottom line in this state of affairs is that Israeli legislation takes into account the fact that conscripted soldiers do not earn a salary and that they must sometimes receive the financial assistance of their parents; thus, Israeli law takes conscripted soldiers into consideration when calculating the benefits received by those parents of conscripted soldiers who are eligible for a monthly guaranteed income allowance,” it said.

Moreover, the state argues that inability to earn a salary is part of the compulsory service in the IDF that is, by definition, “imposed on Israeli citizens," undermining many of their basic rights and impinging on their earning power while they are carrying out their military service.

Aמ IDF soldier near the Gaza Strip.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkowitz

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