Soldiers in Reserves to Get More Money for Fewer Days

In what many perceive as a prime example of the way the lessons of the Second Lebanon War are being adopted, the Knesset passed yesterday the Reservists' Law, which anchors in legislation a series of reforms regarding the remuneration, conditions of service and government supervision of the Israel Defense Forces reserve corps.

The law is the product of an eight-year effort by reservist organizations, and is based on the conclusions of the Braverman Committee, which recommended proposals for reforms in 2005. The government adopted the Braverman proposals and presented legislation that was withdrawn after its first reading.

During the Second Lebanon War all progress on the matter was put on hold.

More recently, the government proposed legislation that was considerably less generous to the reservists than the original proposals. But the earlier proposal was then combined with other, privately proposed legislation from Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan and Labor MK Danny Yatom, which offered many benefits for reservists.

According to the new law, a reservist who does not hold a command rank will serve no more than 54 days during a three-year period, compared to the current regulations in which the maximum days of service can reach 108 days. A non-commissioned officer may serve as many as 70 days in three years, and an officer a maximum of 84 days.

However, the defense minister is authorized to ask the permission of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to raise the maximum amount that soldiers with certain specializations can serve, not exceeding 108 days in a three-year period.

Even though the law allows for exceptions, no reservist will be called up for more than 25 days of combat operations during a three-year period.

Soldiers and NCOs will be exempt from reserve duty at age 40, while officers will be exempt at 45.

These changes will go into effect in 2010. According to the new legislation, the minimum payment for reserve duty will be 68 percent of "base salary," calculated at NIS 4,700 per month compared to the current "base," which is the minimum wage of NIS 3,700. Entitlement for the economic benefits will be retroactive, starting from January 2007.

Henceforth, an emergency call-up of reserves (under the so called Tzav 8) will only be allowed with cabinet approval or by the prime minister in extreme cases. Currently, the law allows the defense minister and the chief of staff to call up all the reserves without consulting the rest of the government.

In addition, all emergency call-ups will also require the authorization of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said that as far as the defense establishment is concerned, the new legislation is tantamount to a Basic Law, which will guide a great deal of its activities.

MK Vilnai noted that "it is doubtful if we would have reached this point without the Second Lebanon War."

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chair MK Tzachi Hanegbi said the new law is there to show that "the country does appreciate and knows how to compensate reservists, and this way it also reprimands those who evade the draft."

Vilnai also noted that the legislation was not passed for many years because there was no funding, and that only when Defense Minister Ehud Barak got the funding, was the law passed.