(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Six months into his role as defense minister, Avigdor Liberman said on Tuesday that he would work to cancel the shortening of compulsory military service for men, extending it once again to three years.
A plan to reduce the military service of male soldiers by two months, from 32 to 30, was approved earlier in December by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. If the bill becomes law, it will go into effect in July 2020, but according to Liberman, shortening mandatory service to two and a half years is “a mistake.”
According to figures released by the IDF’s Manpower Directorate in November, there has been a reduction of many positions in the army, including combat soldiers and officers, since the change to 32 months.
“I hope we reach a new understanding with the Treasury Department regarding the duration of mandatory service. Currently, and after a thorough examination, mandatory service of two and a half [years] is a mistake,” said Lieberman.
Liberman instead offered other proposals, such as having fighters serving in elite units be required to sign on to serve for four years. “The minimum time to prepare a paratrooper or an elite Duvdavan commando is one year and four months. That hardly leaves time for active service,” he said.
The process of shortening mandatory service began under former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and therefore, Liberman does not plan to cancel it, instead he hopes to reopen the debate in 2019.
"I will honor the commitments of former Defense Minister Ya'alon. We can not change it,” he said.
Meanwhile, according to a security source commenting on the preparedness of the IDF in the next campaign, "we are seeing more and more attempts to develop and then hand over non-conventional weapons, including chemical and biological weapons, including by the Islamic State group, which requires us to prepare accordingly.”
Liberman, in a rare acknowledgment of an Israeli strike on Hezbollah targets in Syria, said on December 7 that the IDF is working “to prevent the smuggling of sophisticated weapons, military equipment and weapons of mass destruction from Syria to Hezbollah.”
According to the security source, Israel is “constantly thinking about how to attack, destroy and deter” Hezbollah, which has gained much battlefield experience fighting with Syrian regime forces.
“There’s no option but to examine the threats coming out of Aleppo,” the security source said, adding that “when I look at the threat, I see their fighters fighting for five years under fire, they have tremendous experience, not from drills, but in true war conditions. They are a significant force which is operating battalions and headquarters, which upgrades their fighting ability. It’s no longer just one brainwashed terrorist, we are dealing with a true combat fighter.”
He also said “If someone was killed... in Tunis, I assume he was not nominated for a Noble Peace prize,” referring to whether the Mossad was involved in last week’s assassination of a Hamas weapons master.
Liberman initially played coy in responding to the question, saying, “First of all, I did not hear about it.”
But instead of leaving the question at that, or giving the standard line that Israel does not respond to such questions, he said, “We do the best we know how to do to defend our interests.”
Regarding the top threat to Israel, he contradicted IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who dropped Iran to a lower priority in his assessment of Israel’s top threats. Liberman said he still views Iran as Israel’s greatest threat, both in terms of long-term nuclear potential and its involvement in terrorism. He said he doesn’t know why the IDF chief of staff lowered Iran in his threat assessment, but “they are the biggest threat,” in his opinion.