The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee approved on Monday an amendment to the Defense Service Law that will legally reclassify desertion.
According to the amendment, which was authorized for presentation to the Knesset for a second and third reading, only soldiers who are absent without leave (AWOL) for a year and a half will be considered deserters. Previously, within 21 days of a soldier going AWOL, he or she would be declared a deserter, for which the maximum prison sentence is 15 years.
Under the new amendment, desertion that occurred during peacetime will result in a maximum 10-year sentence, and wartime desertions will result in seven-year maximum sentences. Committee chairman Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) said that previous punishments were disproportional, “since the number of soldiers who deserted the IDF is not large, and in most cases the circumstances are usually linked to socioeconomic difficulties or to new immigrants.”