Does Israel Really Need Compulsory Draft?
By Moshe Feiglin
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, 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.
The Left does not want the Ultra-Orthodox in the army. The legions of Religious Zionists make it 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 Rimon z”l, 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.
So the Right doesn’t really want this compulsory draft and the Left doesn’t, either. More ridiculous is the fact that not only is the IDF not interested in this draft, but it really doesn’t need it, either. Drafting the Ultra-Orthodox en-masse will require the IDF to establish new frameworks and to adopt standards in which it is not interested. As far as not needing it, here are some statistics:
In 2006 the IDF presented the Ben Basat Commission established to investigate reduction of active service with the following numbers:
Approximately 23% of men of draft age are not inducted into the army from the outset.
18% of those drafted drop out of the army during their service.
For all practical purposes, the compulsory induction law applies to only 59% of Israel’s young men. According to the Shefer Commission report, there are ten different types of arrangements with the army that shorten the soldiers’ term of service. So of the 59% 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 4%(!) of all the men who could theoretically be serving in the army.
It is important to note that the IDF’s elite units (Golani infantry, air force and navy) boast an over-abundance of volunteers to their ranks. In other words, our youth is 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 out of the work force, burdening the economy.
3. Security: Naturally, the IDF relies on cheap labor instead of professionalism and technology. This damages our security situation. The disparity between the Air Force, which is essentially a professional volunteer force – and the rest of the army clearly highlights this problem.
4. Most important of all – 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. Not all at once and not in a rush. We need a long-term plan in which 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, each and every Jew would be inducted into the army and would do basic training of a number of days at least and 30 days at most. The training will be tailored to the needs of the various sectors: There will be completely separate bases for women, the training will take place during vacation from the yeshivahs and universities, and the like.
Those who are not interested in volunteering will finish their service at this point. They can and will be drafted in emergency situations for guard duty, civil defense and if necessary, for 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 (as opposed to the situation in the US).
I have no doubt that the supply will outstrip demand and that many of the volunteers will receive a negative answer. The IDF will be able to choose who it really wants and to invest all 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?