IDF PARATROOPERS return after an intensive week of training..
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Salaries for IDF soldiers in mandatory service have not been raised in years, leaving many unable to afford their basic needs, MKs pointed out at a joint meeting of two Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense subcommittees Monday.
The meeting between the subcommittees on Manpower and Training and on the Defense Budget came after a group of soldiers published an open letter to the IDF in September, saying that they were going home hungry from their service and were unable to help support their families.
The soldiers pointed out that not everyone could get help from their parents, and said they had gone into debt and were accepting donations from aid organizations.
Defense Budget Subcommittee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) called to “stop this unreasonable distortion,” saying “a soldier must get what he deserves without any connection to the economic situation of his parents and without having to depend on organizations that donate to the IDF.”
Manpower and Training Subcommittee chairman Omer Bar- Lev (Labor) said the IDF must understand that people are the basis of the IDF’s power.
“Material support for whoever carries the burden of our defense is no less important than new weapons or a new plane,” Bar-Lev stated.
“Raising soldiers’ pay will strengthen the defense establishment.”
Bar-Lev pointed out that 16 percent of soldiers drop out, many because of economic distress.
Col. Gil Ben-Shaul of the IDF Manpower Directorate agreed that the issue had not been dealt with properly in years.
“Last year, the IDF decided to fix this, based on an examination of all the needs of soldiers in mandatory service. We must allow soldiers to be able to serve in the IDF without taking money from their families,” he said.
The IDF determined that soldiers needed NIS 1,100 a month on average, and combat soldiers would receive more. The chief of staff has already approved the plan, and it needs authorization from the defense minister.
Currently soldiers on the home front get NIS 433 per month, those in combat support earn NIS 628, and combat soldiers receive NIS 863.
Ben-Shaul estimated that the pay raise would cost the IDF an additional NIS 35 million in 2015.
MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) called the current situation unacceptable, saying that poor soldiers could barely buy a shwarma and Coca-Cola with the money they got from the IDF.
“This is a core issue, a matter of values that crosses party lines,” Labor faction chairman Eitan Cabel said. “We have to unite and pass a law to make a change.”
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) said he did not understand how it was possible that the defense budget had gone up by NIS 6 billion in the 2015 budget proposal, but this expense had not been approved.
“This is incomprehensible. How can you look these soldiers in the eye?” he asked.
Levin closed the meeting by declaring that whoever was contributing to the state must get something in return.
“This is a crazy, absurd situation that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
It is a matter of values that must be changed,” he stated.
“We may not be able to solve everything in one budgetary year, but if this isn’t changed gradually, we’ll find ourselves in a situation in which people cannot enlist [because of financial reasons], and there will have to be a significant change at once,” he warned.
“Don’t make that happen.”