Gantz says draft needs reform for Israel's safety

In a warning to Nasrallah, the defense minister said Hezbollah will pay a heavy price for any violence.

 HAREDIM PROTEST at the city’s Bar Ilan intersection, following the arrest of a haredi draft-dodger. The Peleg faction frequently spearheads such protests; Illustrative.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
HAREDIM PROTEST at the city’s Bar Ilan intersection, following the arrest of a haredi draft-dodger. The Peleg faction frequently spearheads such protests; Illustrative.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has warned that if there is no reform to the draft, Israel might not be able to meet future threats.

“If no change is made, and we don’t develop a long-term vision, there is the danger of disbanding the People's Army, and [that will] impair our ability to meet security challenges,” he said Wednesday at the Annual Eitan Balachsan Memorial Leadership Conference.

Gantz has repeatedly called for a reform of the draft and to broaden national service, saying that without doing so, the country would be forced to end the draft and change the IDF from a “people’s army” into a volunteer, professional army.

“As Defense Minister, I say explicitly and honestly that we are facing a long-term crisis regarding service in the IDF.”

Gantz said that the military was facing a crisis that requires significant moves by leadership, who need to understand that what suited the IDF in Israel’s melting pot of the 1950s and 1960s “does not suit the needs of Israeli society today.”

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to soldiers and officers of the 193rd Squadron (credit: ARIEL HERMONI/DEFENSE MINISTRY) Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to soldiers and officers of the 193rd Squadron (credit: ARIEL HERMONI/DEFENSE MINISTRY)

“Unfortunately, when you look at the citizens in the State of Israel, only half of the 18-year-olds enlist," he said. "Compulsory service becomes semi-compulsory service. This situation must not be tolerated and must be changed.” 

There has been a growing number of individuals in Israel who in recent years have called for the IDF to be converted into a volunteer professional army, but Gantz’s reforms would retain it as a draft army and would require all Israelis, including Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews to perform some sort of national service.

Under his plan, the IDF would get the first choice of recruits followed by civil service roles, police, hospitals, ambulances, and others.

Telling the audience that he sees the role of the defense establishment not as one that is solely responsible for the operational activity carried out “tomorrow or the day after tomorrow” but is responsible for Israel’s security in the future.

“My job is to make sure that our children and grandchildren also have someone to rely on," Gantz said. "If no change is made and we don’t develop a long-term vision, there is the danger of disbanding the People's Army which will impair our ability to meet security challenges. If the State of Israel does not have military superiority at any point in time and in every arena, Israel will not have the capabilities to exist.”

A reform to the draft “is one of the most important security missions of our generation,” he said. “The State of Israel needs a new draft outline - which will deal with the challenges of the 2000s and not with the challenges of the previous century.”

Touching on the challenge currently facing Israel from Hezbollah on its northern border, the defense minister said that the IDF and the state “continues to take every necessary action to ensure the peace and security of its citizens-on land, at sea and in the air.”

Last week a remotely piloted small aircraft launched by the terrorist group infiltrated Israeli airspace. Although the IDF followed the unmanned aerial system (UAS) as it flew into Israel, it was unable to intercept it before it flew back into south Lebanon.

Defense officials believe that Hezbollah launched the UAS as a provocation against the Jewish state, which later carried out several low-level flights over the Lebanese capital of Beirut. 

“We have the solutions to the challenges and plans to counter threats. I suggest to [Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan] Nasrallah not to make any calculations and equations with Israel. Because the bill will be paid by Nasrallah, the State of Lebanon and its citizens,” Gantz warned, adding that it will come “with high interest.”