Gallant, Smotrich present NIS 9 billion wartime aid plan for IDF reservists

Financial package includes monthly payments, one-off grants, subsidies, vacation vouchers for reservists serving since October 7, but no assistance for reservists’ businesses

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Defense Minister Yoav Galant hold a joint press conference in Jerusalem, December 26, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Defense Minister Yoav Galant hold a joint press conference in Jerusalem, December 26, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Tuesday unveiled a wartime assistance program for IDF reserve soldiers, amid claims of neglect and the termination of grants for long service.

The NIS 9 billion plan ($2.5 billion), of which NIS 2 billion ($551 billion) is earmarked to compensate employers, includes one-off grants, monthly grants, subsidies and services to soldiers who served 30-, 45- and 60-day periods in reserve duty. It does not include assistance for the businesses of reserve soldiers, despite complaints from reservists who left their businesses to languish when they responded to mobilization orders.

“Just like the reservists who showed up without conditions on October 7, the government has a supreme obligation to look after them. That’s why we’re presenting a broad national assistance program for reservist soldiers,” Gallant said at the beginning of the Jerusalem press conference.

The package expands the existing financial assistance available for reserve soldiers and their partners, with a special compensation track for self-employed reservists who lost their incomes while serving in the army since October 7.

At the press conference with Gallant, Smotrich announced that reservists will be eligible to take out state-backed business loans, with repayments postponed for the first 12 months.

Under the plan, combat soldiers will be eligible for a monthly grant of NIS 1,400 ($386), and all other soldiers NIS 800 ($220) per month, with extra benefits for parents of children under the age of 14, as well as maternity leave extensions for new parents and assistance for parents of children with special needs.

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).

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.

Reserve soldiers who serve in combat roles will also be eligible for a NIS 50,000 ($13,777) grant toward purchasing land in towns and cities outside Israel’s central region in the so-called periphery.

IDF armored and infantry reserve units in military training in Golan Heights before heading South to the Gaza Strip, northern Golan Heights on October 8, 2023. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Over 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.

Since then, reservists and their families have begun to campaign to receive 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.

Following the unprecedented mobilization and its financial aftershocks, the Knesset last month approved a compensation package worth an estimated NIS 15 billion ($4.1 billion) to help businesses continue operating. The program included grants to businesses across the country that have suffered indirect damages due to the war, a salary reimbursement program, and relief measures for employees put on unpaid leave.

While reservists are paid a salary for their time serving, this has often proved insufficient for business owners whose untended enterprises fall into debt or crash entirely. While special funds have been earmarked to support such businesses, the Knesset Finance Committee heard from representatives on Monday that many are still not receiving the help they need.

Tax Authority representative Amir Dahan told the committee that over a period of a single month, 204,000 claims were submitted and that the government had paid out a total of NIS 3.75 billion ($1 billion) so far.

Sam Sokol contributed to this report. 

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