The State of Israel is bickering over nothing. It is like a fight between a seller who has nothing to sell and a buyer who has no intention of buying. They shout at each other, call the police, or go to court when all they really want is attention for reasons of their own. One thing, however, is for sure: No deal will be struck between the two sides.
The Left does not want the haredim in the army. The legions of religious Zionists make the army feel pressured enough as it is. The sane majority of Israelis does not want Arabs in the army, either. Anybody with a tad of intelligence can understand that when the Arabs’ quintessential representative, MK Ahmad Tibi, opposes the construction of a space center in the Arab town of Taibeh because it is to be named after the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who was also a combat pilot, the basic loyalty of Israel’s Arabs is not to the state but to their people – who aim to destroy it.
Now for some statistics:
• Approximately 23 percent of men eligible to be drafted are not inducted into the army.
• Eighteen percent of those drafted drop out of the army during their service.
Thus, for all practical purposes, the compulsory induction law applies to only 59 percent of young male Israelis. According to the Shefer Commission report, there are 10 different types of arrangements with the army that shorten the soldiers’ terms of service. So of the 59 percent who enter the army, most do not serve the full 36 months of compulsory service. In other words, in total contrast to the ethos of the “People’s Army,” less than one third of the men in every induction cycle truly bear the full burden of army service. This is without taking into account the fact that only a minority of those men are actual combat soldiers.
The gap between the myth of the People’s Army and reality is even more pronounced in the reserves. In the year 2000, approximately 32,000 soldiers served the full period of reserve duty (26 days). This is only four percent of all the men who could theoretically be serving in the army!
It is important to note that the IDF’s elite units boast an overabundance of volunteers in their ranks. In other words, Israeli youth are highly motivated to serve in combat units.
The Compulsory Induction Law requires the IDF to draft everyone, even those it does not need and does not want.
The result is problematic in many ways:
1. Idleness: Too many soldiers in the army have nothing to do. This is a well-known fact and can be observed on most army bases.
2. Economy: Too many people are out of the work force, burdening the economy.
3. Security: The IDF relies on cheap labor instead of professionalism and technology. This damages national security. The disparity between the Air Force, essentially a professional volunteer force, and the rest of the army clearly highlights this problem.
4. Liberty: Compulsory induction contradicts the fundamental Jewish value of liberty.
5. Internecine Hatred: Compulsory induction has always been a trigger for internecine hatred, pitting those who serve against those who do not.
The real solution for this problem is to make the IDF a professional volunteer army. We need a long-term plan whereby every stage is examined before moving on to the next stage. The ultimate goal of this plan is to nullify compulsory induction.
In this plan, every Jew would be inducted into the army and would do basic training for a number of days at a minimum and for 30 days at most. The training would be tailored as per the needs of the various sectors. There would be completely separate bases for women, the training would take place during vacation from yeshiva and university schedules, and the like.
Those not interested in volunteering would finish their service at this point. They would be drafted for emergency situations: guard duty, civil defense and, if necessary, more advanced training.
A soldier who chooses to volunteer in the IDF, and whom the IDF chooses to accept will receive a good salary, truly professional training that includes an academic degree and most important of all, the admiration of Israeli society.
I have no doubt that the supply will outstrip the demand and that many of the volunteers will receive a negative answer. The IDF will be able to choose whom it really wants and to invest all of its resources in those who are actually improving our security – instead of vast amounts of soldiers who are not really necessary.
Only one problem will remain: What will we fight about next?
About the Author: Moshe Feiglin is the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and a member of Israel's Security and Defense Committee. He heads the Manhigut Yehudit ("Jewish Leadership") faction of Israel's governing Likud party. He is the founder of Manhigut Yehudit and Zo Artzeinu and the author of two books: "Where There Are No Men" and "War of Dreams." Feiglin served in the IDF as an officer in Combat Engineering and is a veteran of the Lebanon War. He lives in Ginot Shomron with his family.
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