Israel Slashes Two Months Off Compulsory Military Duty for Men

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Soldiers near the Israeli settlement of Beit El in the West Bank, June 2, 2020.
Soldiers near the Israeli settlement of Beit El in the West Bank, June 2, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

Israel shortened compulsory military duty for men for men by two months on Wednesday, in accordance with legislation passed in 2016, to 30 months of service.

The army objects to the change and plans to raise the issue in the security cabinet this month in an attempt to amend the legislation.

New recruits will receive a document explaining that their compulsory service has been shortened when they report for duty, with a note alerting that the decision may be revised. The document says, "There's a possibility that after you enlist the law will be amended, which may change the duration of compulsory service. Any such amendment would be applied to your service as well."

The Israeli army has not changed the length of mandatory service in their draft letters or the website for new recruits, both of which still cite the length of service as 32 months.

The change that went into effect on Wednesday was part of legislation passed by the Knesset in 2016, which was part of the multi-year defense budget agreed upon by the treasury and Defense Ministry in November 2015.

Army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi does not support the change. The Israel Defense Forces has held a similar stance since Kochavi took office in January 2019, claiming that unexpected security challenges have arisen since the decision was made and cutting service time would leave the military without enough personnel to allow for jobs required long-term training.

The treasury supports the move based on investigations showing that it does not hurt the IDF’s operational capabilities. The shortened service time is expected to allow more young people to begin academic studies earlier and join the workforce at a younger age. Preliminary assessments show the economy benefitting from this program, to the tune of 10-12 billion shekels a year. The coronavirus crisis has led many politicians to support the treasury's stance.

MK Ofer Shelach (Kahol Lavan) objected to the service cut back in 2016, claiming that the IDF was not ready for such a step. "I voted against it because I thought it was haphazard and half-baked," he said. "The current fiasco reflects the way that [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu handles security matters."

The IDF spokesperson did not respond to this article. The spokesperson issued a statement on Wednesday morning saying that “in accordance with the December 2016 amendment to the compulsory service law, starting this morning, July 1, 2020, new recruits will be drafted to the IDF for a period of 30 months.”

The new legislation brings men's service closer to the duration of women's service. Women are expected to serve for 24 months.

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