Israeli soldiers ride a tank after returning to Israel from Gaza.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The proportion of Ethiopian-Israelis enlisting went up by 4.5 percent points for men and 7.9 percent points for women over five years, IDF Manpower Directorate representatives told MKs on Sunday.
However, the proportion of Ethiopian immigrants and those of Ethiopian descent dropping out of IDF service is on the rise, going from 19.4% in 2010-2011 to 22.8% in July 2013-June 2014 for men, and from 9.5% to 10.6% for women over the same time, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee on Manpower was told. The proportion of Ethiopian- Israelis leaving in the middle of their service is much higher than that for all Israelis, where the average is 16.5% for men and 7.5% for women.
Subcommittee chairman Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) called on the military to work to continue the trend of increasing enlistment numbers and to improver placement procedures to make sure those who join the IDF complete their mandatory service.
“It’s clear that efforts by the Defense Ministry, IDF, Education Ministry and organizations like [young leadership NGO] Aharay [“Follow Me,” which Bar- Lev, a reserve colonel and former commander of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal) and the Jordan Valley Brigade, co-founded], bore fruit,” the Labor MK said. “The data show a slight improvement, but the gaps [between Ethiopians and the general population] are still large.”
Bar-Lev said “pressure to deal with the matter must continue for the good of all of Israeli society.”
The IDF also reported more Ethiopian- Israelis rated as high-quality recruits following testing, up 4.2 percentage points since 2010 for men and 3.7 percentage points for women.
As such, the proportion of men of Ethiopian descent signing up for special courses nearly doubled in that time, reaching 18.1%, though the proportion of them becoming officers went down by 0.4 percentage points. The number of women becoming officers rose by 0.7 percentage points. In the general population, 7% of men and 4.5% of women become officers.
As for the number of Ethiopian soldiers in prison, the figure went down nearly 2 percentage points from its record high of 10.8% in 2012.
Bar-Lev criticized the IDF and the Defense Ministry for refusing to give the subcommittee data on Ethiopian enlistment ahead of the meeting, even though they promised to do so in August, making it more difficult for MKs to study the numbers and ask in-depth questions.