'60 percent of Israelis won't serve in IDF by 2020'

IDF Manpower Directorate says every other Israeli already doesn't serve, army looking to balance needs of different sectors.

November 18, 2011 08:43
2 minute read.
Religious IDF soldiers praying

Religious haredi IDF soldiers praying 521 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)


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By 2020, 60 percent of Israelis will not be serving in the military, the head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai, warned on Thursday.

Already, only one in two citizens – male and female – serves in the IDF, she said. In addition, 40% of women dodge the draft annually – the majority receiving exemptions based on religious grounds – as do 25% of men.

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Draft-dodging is expected to rise in the coming years due to the demographic trends in society. For example, ultra-Orthodox youth now make up 26% of the country’s firstgraders, compared to just 7% in 1960, and this number will continue to grow. The low draft numbers are also a result of low aliya rates, which have dropped from 77,000 in 1999 to just 16,600 in 2010.

Among men, the largest number of exemptions is given to the haredi sector, which constitutes 13% of draft-dodgers – a number expected to increase by 0.4% come 2014. Besides this, 6% of youth receive medical exemptions every year, half of them for mental illness.

The IDF found that motivation to serve in combat units was highest among Jewish youth from settlements in the West Bank (61%), compared to the Gush Dan region (which includes Tel Aviv), where only 36% asked to serve in combat positions. Second place was Jerusalem, with 52% of recruits asking to serve in combat units.

The city with the highest draft rate is Modi’in-Macabim-Reut, where 92.4% of young men serve in the army. In comparison, only 42.5% of male youth in Tel Aviv do IDF service, and in Jerusalem, only 40.8% serve.


Barbivai also referred to allegations that the IDF was being overrun by religious extremists.

On Monday, a group of former IDF generals sent a letter to Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, warning against giving in to religious demands to prevent mixing men and women in military ranks.

Gantz recently tapped Barbivai to head up a committee tasked with setting guidelines for integrating female and religious male soldiers into the same unit.

“The IDF needs to work to find the balance that will enable it to provide a quality and significant service for soldiers from all sectors of society, whether male or female, religious or secular,” Barbivai said in a briefing on Thursday, saying her committee would submit its recommendations to Gantz in the coming weeks.

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