IDF cuts mandatory military service for men to 2.5 years

Ex-defense minister Bennett warns move will hurt military’s fighting ability

Soldiers from the Golani Brigade take part in a military exercise in the northern city of Safed on February 12, 2020.(David Cohen/Flash90)
Soldiers from the Golani Brigade take part in a military exercise in the northern city of Safed on February 12, 2020.(David Cohen/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces announced Wednesday that, effective immediately, compulsory military service for males has been shortened from 32 months to 30 months.

The change was part of a law passed in 2016 that further reduced mandatory service time for men, after it was slashed from 36 to 32 months in 2015. Women are required to serve 24 months unless they volunteer for a unit that requires additional service time.

The IDF, which was reported to oppose further shortening the time male conscripts serve, warned incoming recruits that any future change to the law will also apply to them.

“We would like to bring to your attention that the possibility exists that after your enlistment the law will be revised, so if the duration of mandatory service changes, the new law will apply to you,” a letter to new recruits said.

The army also said the two-month reduction would apply to female recruits who volunteered for units with longer periods of required service.

Young Israeli men line up at the IDF recruitment center at Tel Hashomer on July 26, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

There was no immediate response to the announcement from Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who served as IDF chief of staff from 2011 to 2015.

MK Naftali Bennett, Gantz’s predecessor as defense minister, called on the government to cancel the change and said his national-religious Yamina party would push to amend the law. He warned the shortened service time for men would affect the IDF’s fighting ability.

“Shortening the service of IDF soldiers is a grave mistake that will harm [military] strength of soldiers in the field units, the quality and depth of training for IDF soldiers and, above all, the IDF’s fitness in the coming war,” Bennett wrote on Twitter.

The decision to further shorten mandatory military service to 30 months was part of a five-year plan agreed on in 2015 by the defense and finance ministries.

The Finance Ministry supports further cutting compulsory service time for males because that enables cutting the defense budget. In addition, soldiers studying for a college degree and entering the workforce at an earlier age could provide a boon to the economy. However, the Haaretz daily reported the IDF is opposed to the move as it would reduce manpower levels and lead to a drop in the number of soldiers serving in key positions.

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