Gantz expresses concern over draft bill

Gantz expresses concern over draft bill

'Political echelon will have debates and make decisions,' IDF chief says as army fears potential manpower gaps

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (L) seen during a tour in the Golan Heights, February 23, 2014  (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (L) seen during a tour in the Golan Heights, February 23, 2014 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

The IDF’s top commander expressed concern on Sunday over a plan being developed in the Knesset to shorten military service for young men.

The Shaked Committee, a group of MKs working on a bill to create a more equal distribution of the burden of military service, has sought to shorten the 36-month mandatory service for young men by increasing the lengths of service of women (currently at 24 months) and Hesder yeshiva students (16 months), and by drafting thousands of Haredi soldiers from a community that has historically been exempt from military service.

In recent weeks, the IDF’s Manpower Directorate asked the committee of MKs to lengthen the service of women by four months and of Hesder yeshiva students by eight, in addition to drafting significant numbers of Haredi soldiers. These measures would help offset the expected manpower shortage of some 10,000 soldiers that would result from the shortening of men’s service to 32 months, the army said.

“We are presenting our professional truth to the committee members unequivocally,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said Sunday while on a tour of the IDF division on the Golan Heights. “We don’t have a vote in that forum, and the political echelon will have to have its debates and make its decisions. The IDF presented its needs and explained the rationale, and when [the MKs] make their decision, we will also present the ramifications. The political level isn’t subordinate to the operational level; that’s how it is in a democratic country.”

The army didn’t get many of its requests in the latest draft of the bill produced by the Shaked Committee, which only increases the Haredi draft over several years and lengthens the service periods of women and Hesder students by far less time than the army requested. The bill, as it stands, extends the service of Hesder soldiers to 17 months, which the army says will not cover gaps left by reducing the service of male soldiers.

Gantz’s latest expression of dissatisfaction follows previous complaints by the army over the committee’s deliberations.

MKs, including committee members Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) and Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid), have resisted automatic approval for the IDF’s requests. Jewish Home is heavily dependent on the Orthodox-nationalist constituency represented by the Hesder yeshivas, while Yesh Atid prefers an expanded Haredi draft over increasing the service of women.

During his Golan tour, Gantz also spoke about the growing presence of Iran on Israel’s borders.

Iran and its surrogates are ceaselessly attempting to destabilize and compromise Israel’s borders, with the Islamic Republic directly involved in each and every one of the regional conflicts in countries surrounding the Jewish state, Gantz said.

That regional unrest was a recipe for a highly explosive situation, he added.

Iran “is handing out torches to pyromaniacs,” providing its surrogates with “ammunition, rockets, and is heavily involving itself in the fighting.”

Gantz added that the relative quiet along Israel’s borders was misleading, and that hostile forces were constantly attempting to find and take advantage of Israel’s security vulnerabilities.

“Each and every one of our fronts is in a tense state right now,” he said. “Quiet, I would say, yet tense, everyday.”

Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

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