Number of Career IDF Soldiers Disclosed: 40,000-plus

Locker committee recommends cutting it to 38,000; Defense Ministry director-general puts current figure at 44,000, IDF says it’s 41,000.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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IDF chief Eizenkot at a Knesset Foreign and Defense Committee session, June 16, 2015.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The director-general of the Defense Ministry, Maj. Gen. (res.) Dan Harel, told Army Radio on Wednesday that 44,000 IDF soldiers currently serve in the standing army. This is the first time the number of soldiers serving in the career army has been disclosed.

Haaretz has learned this number applies to the period before cuts were initiated a few years ago. According to numbers supplied by the IDF, 41,400 salaries were paid last month to career soldiers.

The army will let go of further personnel in the coming year, following Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot’s determination to have only 40,000 left by 2017. The Locker committee recommended cutting this further, down to 38,000.

The army’s manpower numbers have fluctuated over the years. Army statistics show there are currently 8 percent more soldiers in the standing army than there were in 1985, when 39,000 career soldiers were serving. The number was similar in 2005, then began to grow, reaching a peak of 45,000 career soldiers in 2012.

The Locker committee report was published two days ago. It severely criticized the growth in the number of career officers in the IDF, claiming that it contradicted the recommendations made by the earlier Brodet commission, which stated in 2007 that the IDF should significantly reduce its standing army by 2017.

The Locker committee rejected the army’s claims that the growth stemmed from the establishment of new systems in its intelligence arm, such as cyber warfare units. According to the army, only 2,000 people have joined these new units. The panel determined that the handling of manpower in the army is defective and that the IDF doesn’t adequately control the number of career soldiers and expenses accruing from their employment.

“The committee was under the impression the army is not always aware of the budgetary implications of changes in manpower and employment terms of career soldiers,” said the report.

IDF wives protest Locker report

Career soldiers’ wives are protesting the massive cutbacks in their husbands’ pensions recommended in a report commissioned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The career soldiers’ wives said the report, released this week by a panel headed by Maj. Gen. (res.) Yohanan Locker, was causing “serious damage to the Defense Ministry, the IDF and the career soldiers.” Locker formerly served as Netanyahu’s military secretary.

The panel was tasked with recommending ways to streamline the defense budget. Among its 53 recommendations are personnel cuts, ending the so-called “bridge pension,” shortening compulsory service, drastic budgetary cuts and full transparency.

A group of career soldiers’ wives opened a Facebook page several weeks ago complaining of their husbands’ work conditions. “Career soldiers cannot demonstrate, strike or organize against the worsening of their work terms, so we are their voice,” the page says.

The protesters express fear the panel’s recommendations will worsen their husbands’ conditions further. “We won’t hesitate to take any action required to prevent a disproportionate worsening of the wages of career soldiers, who are protecting the state but cannot protect themselves,” the post said.