IDF Mulls Mandatory Drug Test for Soldiers in Sensitive Positions

Currently soldiers can be handed a criminal record for refusing to give urine sample.

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Golani Brigade soldier apparently smoking a joint with his weapon in a picture posted on Instagram.
Golani Brigade soldier apparently smoking a joint with his weapon in a picture posted on Instagram.Credit: Instagram
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israel Defense Forces Manpower Directorate is considering requiring soldiers serving in sensitive positions to undergo mandatory and regular drug testing. The military is currently conducting preparations to examine its policies on requiring soldiers to submit urine samples to detect drug use. Today, refusing to provide such a sample to test for recent drug use is considered a violation of military regulations – and soldiers can be imprisoned for refusing, and not just for drug use. Such a refusal may also lead to a soldier having a criminal record.

Currently, the IDF relies on information on specific soldiers before the Military Police open an investigation in a unit, said a source in the IDF. The army spends considerable resources on detectives and undercover agents in investigating possible drug use inside the military. Almost half of the Military Police’s intelligence efforts are spent on drug investigations.

A change in policy requiring tens of thousands of soldiers to provide urine samples on a regular basis still requires a legal examination, he said. The IDF views soldiers who serve in sensitive positions – such as Military Police investigators, technicians and drivers – as needing to have a major sense of responsibility, and therefore the IDF is considering a limited supervision of such soldiers through regular drug testing.

The investigative branch of the Military Police presented its figures Wednesday to a session of the Knesset Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. The IDF’s data show that some 10 percent of military crimes related to drugs are for refusal to submit urine samples. In general, Military Police investigators conduct tests on soldiers only after they have received prior information as to alleged drug use, so the request for a urine sample is generally intended to prove – or disprove – the suspicions.

Military law allows such tests to be conducted even without prior information about possible drug use, but this requires written agreement from the soldier to conduct the test. In the past, the IDF often conducted “surprise testing” in which large numbers of soldiers were required to supply urine samples, often an entire unit. But after the military defender’s office petitioned the court against such actions, the Military Police were instructed that they must make it clear to the soldiers the legal significance of these tests – and their rights. As a result, the number of soldiers who agreed of their free will to submit urine samples decreased, and such operations have almost disappeared.

IDF figures show that about 40 percent of Military Police investigations concern drug offenses. The commander of the Military Police investigative branch, Col. Erez Raban, told the committee that the IDF is making a great effort to fight drug use, and that is why they are considering changing the policy about drug testing. One third of these cases concern combat soldiers, while the rest of the soldiers involved are in combat support units and rear echelon positions.

The military filed 629 indictments for drug offenses in 2014, compared to 416 in 2013. Most of these cases involve marijuana or various designer drugs.

Last year, the military advocate general started examining the enforcement policy concerning soldiers who use drugs during leave from the military and outside military bases, and to ease up on prosecution of those soldiers who used drugs only once.

IDF figures show that half of the drug cases investigated are such cases, and the military defender’s office has proposed changing the legal process in these cases so the soldiers face only disciplinary – and not criminal – charges. At the same time, they proposed providing unit commanders with additional means of enforcement, but the IDF has yet to make a final decision on the matter.

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