Israeli Army Chief Earned $28,400 a Month in 2018, More Than Previously Reported

New criteria for measuring pay – including bonuses for long service or signing on for extra time – showed military wages much higher than previously believed

Outgoing Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot at a graduation ceremony for incoming Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Tel Aviv, January 15, 2019.
Moti Milrod

Gadi Eisenkot was probably surprised to learn Tuesday that in 2018, his last year as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, his monthly pay rose about 10% to 98,000 shekels ($28,400 at the current exchange rate) before taxes.

Other top IDF officers are likely to have felt the same way: The Finance Ministry’s annual public-sector wages report showed that the salaries for major generals rose 8% to 68,000 shekels a month and for brigadier generals 9% to 56,000 shekels.

Actually, their pay didn’t climb by that rate at all. In the latest annual report, the ministry’s wages commissioner simply used a new method for calculating pay that took into account benefits not previously included.

Those include a bonus for long service or for signing on to extra time, or pay to officers in units, mainly high-tech ones, where competition for talent with the private sector is intense. On the other hand, the new method doesn’t include items like the value of an IDF-supplied car.

The figures on IDF pay are part of the Finance Ministry’s annual report on civil service pay. It shows wide pay gaps in education, where beginning teachers – who often receive only part-time jobs – earned an average of just 4,800 a month while older teachers averaged 16,500.

The report shows that pay for doctors at government hospitals surged 59% in the 10 years through 2018 to an average of 33,400 a month, mainly due to a 2011 pay accord.

The pay figures cast a light on the IDF’s efforts to retain career officers, a fact reflected in the way pay rises as officers move up the ranks. While a lieutenant on average earned below 10,000 shekels a month, a captain received a little over 14,000 and a major almost 23,000.

In the wider defense and security establishment, the branches that enjoyed the highest pay raises in 2018 were the intelligence services like the Mossad and the domestic Shin Bet security service. Monthly pay at those two agencies climbed an average of 4% in 2018 to 22,300 shekels. After that came the prison service, with a 3% rise to  16,400 shekels.

At units like the nuclear research centers at Dimona and Nahal Soreq and the Israel Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona saw salaries rise just 2% but to a high average of 29,100 shekels a month.

Civilian employees working for the IDF had just a 1% pay increase in 2018, well below the 3.6% average wage increase for the entire Israeli economy that year.

Another trend in defense pay grades is the huge gap between clerical workers and those with university degrees. In 2018, average monthly pay was 12,000 shekels for the former and 26,000 for the latter.

There was also a big gap even among people with an academic degree. For civilian IDF employees, those in the top 10% of wage earners averaged pay of about 30,000 shekels a month while those in the lowest 10% averaged just 7,400. In auxiliary branches, like nuclear research centers, the gap widened to 49,000 versus 13,500.

The Finance Ministry’s report also revealed pay gaps between men and women. In the intelligence agencies average pay for women was 27% lower than for men; in the auxiliary units it was 19% lower.