Government backs draft bill raising retirement age for IDF reservists amid public backlash

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"

The government gives its support to a draft bill delaying retirement for IDF reservists, amidst widespread criticism of its recruitment policies, which many Israelis believe place unequal burdens on different segments of the population.

The Defense Ministry-backed draft bill — which calls for extending a temporary measure raising the age of cessation of reserve military service — was initially passed by the Knesset late last year and is set to expire at the end of the month.

After appearing to postpone an expected cabinet discussion on the measure, the government refers the matter to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which approves sending the legislation to the Knesset, where it must pass three readings to become law.

The committee only supports a three-month extension, rather than until the end of the year as initially proposed. The committee also approves a draft Basic Law giving reservists preferential treatment in civil service hiring, land purchases and academic admissions.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara told the government that the bill is legally unacceptable unless an immediate effort is made to draft extra military power “from the entire population,” a reference to the tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students who receive blanket exemptions from military service.

The government has faced a harsh public backlash over extending reservists’ service while appearing to take little action to draft the ultra-Orthodox. The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is set on Tuesday to debate a bill lowering the age of exemption from mandatory service for Haredi yeshiva students despite an ongoing manpower shortage in the IDF.

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