Knesset to vote this week on bill extending retirement age for IDF reservists

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 Knesset is expected to approve a bill delaying retirement for IDF reservists this week, extending a temporary measure passed last December by another three months.

The proposal, a Defense Ministry-backed “draft Security Service Law,” calls to extend a temporary measure raising the exemption age for reserve military service from 40 to 41 for soldiers and from 45 to 46 for officers for several additional months due to an ongoing manpower shortage. Specialists such as doctors and air crewmen will be required to continue serving until 50, instead of 49.

It was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation last Sunday and on Monday it is slated to be debated by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in preparation for the first of three meetings it must pass to become law.

If eventually approved by the Knesset, the draft bill would mark the second extension of the measure, which was intended as a stopgap solution to prevent a mass release from the reserves of those soldiers reaching the exemption age amid ongoing combat operations in Gaza.

The latest proposed extension was initially supposed to last for six months but has been reduced to three months after Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara stated that the bill was 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 harsh public backlash over extending reservists’ service while appearing to take little action to draft the ultra-Orthodox. The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is also currently debating a bill lowering the age of exemption from mandatory service for Haredi yeshiva students.

In a tweet, Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Liberman protests that “the government is exempting tens of thousands of eligible young men from regular service with one hand while extending the service of reservists with the other.”

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