Computers over combat
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Hebrew media review

Computers over combat

Press highlights a decrease in the number of Israelis willing to serve in combat roles during their mandatory IDF service

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

IDF soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade during a training exercise in southern Israel, on July 10, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)
IDF soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade during a training exercise in southern Israel, on July 10, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)

Apparently largely unfazed by US President Donald Trump’s contentious defense of white supremacist protesters in Virginia over the weekend, Israel’s print media on Wednesday is primarily concerned with a “worrying” new trend that has emerged among IDF recruits in recent years.

Both the Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom dailies dedicate their front pages to a decrease in the number of young Israelis willing to serve in combat roles during their mandatory military service.

Yedioth calls the nearly 2 percent drop in recruits seeking to enlist in combat units in 2017 a “worrying new trend” that is evidence of a larger shift in Israeli society.

According to the paper, the decreased interest in combat units in recent years is primarily due to the “erosion of the warrior ethos” in Israel. Young cadets are increasingly seeking to enlist in technology, cyber defense units or other roles that allow them to serve closer to home and that provide them hands-on training in a marketable skill.

In a column, Yedioth’s military correspondent Yossi Yehoshua warns the new data points to a growing rift between combat and noncombat soldiers.

“Behind the trend is a rift between the technology units and combat soldiers that does not just affect their army service, but their reserve duty as well… When combat soldiers are released from active duty, they are faced with 20-plus years of reserve duty service, while their counterparts who serve in technology units only have to serve a few years if any.”

He calls on the IDF to significantly raise the minimum salary of combat soldiers from the current NIS 1,620, ($448; non-combat soldiers currently receive NIS 1,200 or $331) in an effort to reverse the trend.

Israel Hayom also leads its Wednesday paper with the recently released data from the IDF’s Manpower Directorate, though its coverage more heavily focuses on what it claims is the IDF’s “worried response.”

Analyst Yoav Limor says the “‘migration’ in motivation that has been going on for several years necessitates a root canal and not a filling.”

“This is more than just a military problem.. but a nationwide issue that requires a national response,” Limor writes. “The IDF along with the Education Ministry needs to examine whether in 2017 the ‘I’ trumps ‘us,’ and whether this is a specific problem, or a broader problem in Israeli society that is steadily spilling over into the IDF.”

In contrast to Yedioth and Israel Hayom, Haaretz makes no mention of the latest data released by the IDF.

Instead, the left-wing daily leads its front page with a report on the increased numbers of Syrian casualties caused by US-led coalition forces in recent months.

Overall, the rate of killing in Syria has slowed in recent months, and as a result “the world is losing interest” in the bloody civil war, Zvi Bar’el reports.

“The law of large numbers is at work when it comes to media coverage,” Bar’el writes. “They may report a few dead a day even when in reality there are dozens, as they get swallowed up in the huge total.”

In its opinion pages, the daily continues its criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even though recent days saw no developments in the ongoing corruption investigations against him.

In an op-ed, Bar’el slams Netanyahu’s recent solidarity rally as evidence of the prime minister’s “chronic and pathological panic” typically displayed by dictators and authoritarian leaders.

“It’s a sickness that comes with the role and nurtures in the leader a fear of democratic processes,” Bar’el charges.

Meanwhile, Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev criticizes Netanyahu’s “pathetic” rally in Tel Aviv last week as “grotesque and disturbing.”

Shalev calls Netanyahu’s tendency to play the victim and to link his increasing isolation to hostile media coverage rather than his own shortcomings as a leader an “Israeli tragedy” that will eventually push Netanyahu to his “sad and sorry end.”

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