Photo Credit: Michael Giladi/Flash90
IDF infantry reservists in training before heading south to the Gaza Strip, October 8, 2023.

On Wednesday, the Knesset Plenum voted to approve in the second and third readings the Defense Service Bill extending until June 30, 2024, the temporary provision raising by one year the age of exemption from reserve duty. The bill was passed by 44 to 30 votes.

The amended law determines that for a discharged soldier who is not an officer, the exemption will be granted at age 41 instead of age 40; for a discharged officer, 46 instead of 45; and regarding discharged soldiers serving in certain professions or positions (medical professions, professions that are an integral part of aircrews in the IDF, mechanics, technicians and so forth), the exemption age was raised from 49 to 50.


The explanatory notes to the bill state: “In light of the ongoing warfare, the emergency call-up and the significant contribution of the reservists to the warfare efforts, the discharge of thousands of reservists in combat and combat-support roles during the warfare will significantly harm the IDF’s operational fitness and fighting capability.

“It is not possible at present to replace the reservists who are slated to be discharged due to their age, with other reservists, since this could harm the operational fitness of the units in which the reservists who are slated to be discharged due to their age are serving. Additionally, and so as not to harm the continuity of operations of the units and their operational fitness, [the army] cannot rely on the volunteering of individuals for reserve duty.”

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chair MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) presented the bill, saying, “We are at a highly challenging time. On one hand, the military need for reservists to ensure continuity and operational fitness is clear. On the other hand, we must not ignore the heavy burden that we are imposing on the State of Israel’s citizens. We must do our best to safeguard the rights of our citizens and to ensure their well-being, especially in these difficult days. We believe that at this stage, the bill balances properly between these important principles.”

Leader of the Opposition MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) noted: “The bill that has been laid here is missing a word. The word is ‘everyone.’ If it doesn’t have the word ‘everyone,’ it is not a law, it’s a decree. A decree, because it is imposed only on one segment of the population—the segment of the population on whose shoulders everything is always dropped.”

“The same segment of the population that is now in Khan Younis, and on the northern border,” Lapid continued his well-crafted accusation. “The segment of the population that works and pays taxes. If it’s not for everyone—it’s not a law. If we drafted one-quarter of the Haredim between ages 29 and 49, who are able to serve—we wouldn’t have to extend reserve duty by a single day.”

Lapid is correct technically: if the IDF had at its disposal more reservists, then no one would have to serve any additional time. But regarding the bill that was just passed, there are no available Haredi recruits ages 29 to 49 to be dropped into the Gaza Strip and shorten everybody else’s compulsory reserve time.

Also, when it comes to the segment of the population that bears a disproportionate part of the burden, namely, the settlements, Lapid has been attacking these men and women viciously, calling them “Messianists” and “extremists” and calling on PM Netanyahu day and night to dismiss their elected officials from the government.

Finally, one of Israelis’ favorite pastimes is deciding what exactly did Yair Lapid do in the Army. He was a reporter for the IDF weekly magazine, but then he has told over the years tales about all the many reasons, some of them conflicting, as to why Lapid did not serve as a combat soldier. It had to do with his asthma, but there was also an episode of helping to land choppers in Lebanon. It’s mystifying. If your Hebrew is good enough, you’ll enjoy this interview with an Israel Hayom reporter who attempted to crack the code:


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