Amid Gaza war, IDF plans to lengthen mandatory and reserve service

Preparing for long war and challenges ahead, military presents changes to law which will see male conscripts enlist for 3 years, reservists serve more time and retire at older age

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

IDF reservists guard a Hamas tunnel discovered in northern Gaza's Salatin, close to Jabaliya, December 7, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
IDF reservists guard a Hamas tunnel discovered in northern Gaza's Salatin, close to Jabaliya, December 7, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday unveiled plans to increase the amount of time conscripts and reservists serve in the military, as it prepares for a long war in the Gaza Strip and works to bolster its personnel for future challenges.

The planned changes to the security service and reserve service laws, which will need to be approved by lawmakers, include returning male mandatory army service to three years, as it had been until 2015.

Currently, male recruits serve 32 months, while women serve for two years.

Under the planned changes, female soldiers in combat and other special roles will also serve for 36 months.

The IDF also plans to raise the age for retirement from reserve duty.

Currently, soldiers can bow out at 40, officers at 45, and those in special roles, including positions like drivers, at 49.

Under the IDF’s plans, the age of retirement from reserve duty for soldiers would increase to 45, officers to 50, and special roles to 52.

Israeli reservists are seen after a military drill in the Golan Heights, northern Israel, January 24, 2024. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The amount of time required by reservists to serve per year would also change under the plans.

According to plans, soldiers, who are currently required to serve 54 days in reserves within three years, will serve instead 42 days per year; commanders who are not officers, who serve 70 days within three years, will serve 48 days a year; and officers, who serve 84 days within three years, will serve 55 days a year.

The IDF also plans to increase the number of days in a row reservists can serve in “operational activity,” from 25 days to 40.

As part of the changes, the IDF also plans to give additional compensation for reservists in combat and other frontline roles.

The military did not say how much the changes are expected to cost.

Amid the war in the Gaza Strip, the IDF has called up a total of 287,000 reservists, although many of them have already been released from duty for now. It marks the largest-ever call-up of reservists in Israel’s history.

Many conscript troops have finished their mandatory service amid the war and have continued seamlessly as reservists.

The IDF says the planned changes will allow the military to better build up its forces for the developing challenges it faces, and be able to complete its missions with a larger pool of reservists.

The changes will increase the number of active duty reservists five-fold in comparison to 2023, according to the IDF’s estimates.

Reservists of the 5th Brigade operate in the northern Gaza Strip, in a handout image released by the IDF on February 3, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF has assessed that fighting in Gaza will likely last throughout all of 2024, as Israel works to strip Hamas of its military and governing capabilities. The army is also preparing for fighting to escalate further on the Lebanon border, where Hezbollah and allied Palestinian terror groups have carried out daily rocket, missile, and drone attacks, at the same time as the war in Gaza.

War erupted between Israel and Hamas with the terror group’s October 7 massacres, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages of all ages — mostly civilians — while committing brutal atrocities including mass sexual violence.

Vowing to destroy the terror group, Israel launched a wide-scale military campaign in Gaza, which the Hamas-run health ministry has said killed over 27,000 people since. The figure cannot be independently verified and is believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 10,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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