Cabinet approves NIS 9 billion in wartime grants to support IDF reservists

Those called up need ‘to get the money without delay,’ PM says following complaints of financial hardship by Israelis mobilized to fight in Gaza

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

IDF troops operate inside the Gaza Strip in a handout photo released for publication on January 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate inside the Gaza Strip in a handout photo released for publication on January 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Three months into Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the cabinet on Sunday approved a NIS 9 billion ($2.5 billion) wartime assistance program for the hundreds of thousands of IDF reserve soldiers mobilized in the wake of Hamas’s brutal attack on October 7.

The initial phase of the program — which was first announced by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich late last month amid reservist claims of neglect — will see the government immediately distribute NIS 1.5 billion ($400 million) in grants, including NIS 200 million ($54 million) in compensation for self-employed soldiers.

Combat reserve soldiers will be eligible for a monthly grant of NIS 1,400 ($386), and all other soldiers NIS 800 ($220) per month.

Reservists with families will additionally be eligible to receive up to NIS 3,900 ($1,064) for the months of November and December, with maternity leave extensions for new parents and additional grants available for parents of children with special needs, the government announced.

Reserve soldiers who have served more than 45 days will also receive a one-off grant of NIS 2,500 ($689), while reservists with unemployed partners will be eligible for extra compensation.

At the end of their service, reservists will be granted a vacation voucher valued at NIS 1,500-4,500 ($413-$1,240).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, leads a cabinet meeting at the Kirya IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, January 7, 2024. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

“I instructed the finance minister and the defense minister not to wait for the budget to be passed,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, explaining that he wanted “the reservists to get the money without delay.”

While the first phase will go into effect immediately, further tranches of aid money will only be distributed following the government’s approval of its revised 2024 budget — and will include compensation for employers, tuition fees for students and housing assistance, among other measures.

The plan also includes full tertiary education subsidies for combat soldiers, approved by the Knesset earlier in December, and 30 percent subsidies for soldiers who have been in reserve duty for more than 60 days.

Combat reserve soldiers will also be eligible for a NIS 50,000 ($13,800) grant toward purchasing land in towns and cities outside Israel’s center.

Finance Minister and head of the Religious Zionism Party Bezalel Smotrich leads a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, January 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“We met the soldiers and reservists, the family members and the children. We listened and learned,” said Smotrich, calling Sunday’s decision “one of the most important” the cabinet had made since the beginning of the war.

“We have hundreds of thousands of citizens who at the beginning of the war did not ask questions, rushed to action, sometimes even before they were called up, and have been there ever since,” added Gallant. “The plan we are approving… puts the reservists in the center and tells them and their families: You are not alone.”

Some 360,000 Israelis were called up for reserve duty in the wake of Hamas’s unprecedented assault on October 7, which left over 1,200 people dead and more than 240 in captivity in the Gaza Strip. In response to the murderous onslaught, Israel launched a wide-scale military campaign in Gaza to eliminate Hamas and return the hostages, while also scrambling soldiers to the northern border, where the Hezbollah terror organization has been launching almost daily attacks, and the West Bank.

Many reservists have recently been released as the IDF tapers down the intensity of its campaign. Increasingly, reservists and their families have been campaigning for help to prevent their businesses from collapsing. In many cases, spouses were left alone to care for children — sometimes with schools and kindergartens closed due to the war, depending on the area — and were unable to work for months.

“My situation is a catastrophe,” Lior Moshayev, a supermarket owner from Beersheba who was sent to fight in Gaza’s Shejaiya terror hotspot, told members of the Knesset Finance Committee last month.

Reservist Lior Moshayev (L) testifies before the Knesset’s Finance Committee on December 25, 2023 (video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“I’m afraid to swipe my credit card to buy [baby formula] for my daughter. The refrigerator is empty. I did not receive any grant. I risk my life every day. Bullets pass over my head. I risk my life to protect you and everyone.

“Is there anyone else here whose refrigerator is empty, any of you who have not received a salary?” he demanded, still in uniform, of lawmakers. “We didn’t think twice. We left everything on that first day [October 7]. We left our families, we abandoned our businesses and we went [to fight].”

Last month, the Knesset approved a bill extending the length of time IDF reservists can be kept in service.

The bill, a temporary measure set to last for two months, raises the exemption age for reserve military service from 40 to 41 for enlisted soldiers and from 45 to 46 for officers. Specialists such as doctors and air crews will be required to continue serving until they reach 50, instead of 49. It is intended as a stopgap solution to prevent a mass release from the reserves of those soldiers reaching the exemption age in the midst of ongoing combat operations in Gaza.

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