IDF records drop in motivation among youths for combat service

70% expressed desire to serve in combat unit, compared to 79% in 2010; Modi'in in top place for percentage of recruits.

New IDF recruits 521 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman’s Office)
New IDF recruits 521
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman’s Office)
The IDF's Personnel Directorate recorded a drop in the motivation of Israeli youths to join combat units in the IDF, but stressed that the current level of motivation was in line with figures over the past decade.
Seventy percent of youths surveyed expressed a desire to serve in a combat unit, compared to 79% in 2010, according to figures unveiled on Thursday. Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai, head of the Personnel Directorate, said the figures for 2010 represented a spike in motivation caused by Israel's conflict with Hamas which occurred shortly before the statistics were obtained.
Before Operation Cast Lead, in November 2008, 67.2% of youths said they would seek combat service.
The Personnel Directorate is however concerned over the long-term future of combat units, due to cuts to the national defense budget, and significant numbers of Israelis who continue to dodge the draft.
Underlining the concern is a perception among the general public of a drop in security threats to the state, due to the chaos reigning in Arab states around Israel. But the IDF's Military Intelligence says that old threats have merely been replaced with new ones, and that the chances ofa sudden, multiple-front conflict erupting are on the rise due to regional instability. These shifts are accompanied by an increase in the accuracy of firepower among enemies like Hezbollah.
The IDF continues to view itself as a people's army, and will seek to maintain the national ethos of combat service as a source of resilience, an army source stressed. The government's recent decision to add 2.75 billion shekels to the defense budget has done little to ally long-term concerns, the source added. If more resources are not made available, the IDF may have to shut as many 10 regular service battalions by 2018.
Combat unit should take precedence over technological units that carry out tasks such as cyber warfare, the source argued.
To that end, the IDF plans to pressure the government to increase the defense budget and extend service time, while also holding outreach programs to high school pupils and maintaining the highest army salaries for combat soldiers.
At the same time, cooperation with the ministries of Education and Finance is planned to ensure a good flow of recruits to technological units.
The Personnel Directorate also remains highly concerned by the percentage of women avoiding military service, listed as 42.6% in 2013.
Around one quarter of men subject to the draft are not enlisted; 26.3 percent, according to this year's figures. Fourteen percent of men are excused from service due to religious reasons, 6.2% because of medical issues, 3.1% live abroad, and 3% are not enlisted due to criminal backgrounds.
The Directorate has also set itself the goal of improving service conditions for Ethiopian-Israeli soldiers, who make up 3 percent of recruits, but 13% of whom end up in army prisons due to violation of IDF codes.
Steps to address the problem include an expansion of dialog with the Israeli-Ethiopian community, and with parents of recruits, to prepare the new soldiers for the military.
The Personnel Directorate plans to accompany Ethiopian-Israeli soldiers during their time in the IDF, ensure they have better solutions to individual issues, and speak to recruits before they join, to improve their experience. After their release, the Personnel Directorate will provide the soldiers assistance with higher education programs. "We're working with the government, charities, and community representatives to improve this situation," the source said.
The Directorate released a city by city league table showing the percentage of male draftees. Topping the table is Modi'in, which preserves its number one spot from previous years, with 92.8% of eligible youths drafted into the IDF, followed by Ros Ha'ayin (86.8%) and Yehud (91.8%).
Modi'in also holds the top spot for the city with the highest percentage of combat soldiers (59%). Jerusalem came in third place (55.7%).
According to Thursday's figures, there has been a rise of Haredi soldiers in the army; 2000 joined in 2013, compared to 898 in 2011.
The IDF's target is to recruit 3200 Haredi soldiers in 2016.