Halevi's task is to make the IDF a real Israeli people's army - comment

The Israeli public trust in the country's institutions has drastically dropped over the last decade, yet, they still put their trust in the IDF.

 IDF chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi receiving his rank from PM Netanyahu, Defense Minister Galant and his wife. (photo credit: ALEX KOLOMOISKY/POOL)
IDF chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi receiving his rank from PM Netanyahu, Defense Minister Galant and his wife.
(photo credit: ALEX KOLOMOISKY/POOL)

One of the areas where the Israeli public appears to still put its trust is the IDF.

According to the Israeli Democracy Index for 2022, which was released Sunday, as public trust in the country’s institutions has drastically dropped over the last decade, the reduction in the belief that the IDF is an institution worthy of its trust dropped slightly from an average of 88% over the last 20 years to 85% in 2022.

Compared to other bodies, from the police to the Knesset, those are mighty fine numbers.

Herzi Halevi, who took over the reins from Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi as the IDF’s chief of staff on Monday, has a long list of monumental challenges and tasks facing him from the get go. Securing Israel’s borders, dealing with the West Bank and, of course, the overriding Iranian threat looms large on his agenda.

But at the same time, Halevi also has to undertake the huge challenge of keeping the public’s trust and ensuring that the IDF remains an institution powered by integrity.

 President Isaac Herzog with the new IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi and his predecessor Aviv Kohavi. (credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO) President Isaac Herzog with the new IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi and his predecessor Aviv Kohavi. (credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)

The new chief of staff made reference to that on Monday, saying “we will preserve one IDF – purposeful, principled and professional, shorn of any consideration that is not related to defense.”

That sentiment was echoed by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who said, “I will ensure that outside pressures – political, legal and others – stop with me and do not reach the gates of the IDF.”

Another way of ensuring that the military remains above reproach – which is as thorny a task as sabotaging Iran’s efforts to insert its influence in Syria and Lebanon – is to find a way to restore the concept of a people’s army.

Almost half of Jewish Israelis believe mandatory draft should be discontinued

According to another IDI study conducted last year – called “Jewish Israelis and the IDF in 2022” – 47% of them believe that the mandatory draft should be discontinued and that the IDF should instead become a voluntary professional military force.

That could stem for the fact that a significant 35% – mostly in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Arab sectors – don’t serve and leave the burden on the other 65% of the population.

Halevi’s predecessor Kohavi said last week in his farewell interview with The Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Katz and Yonah Jeremy Bob that the IDF is an army of the people and it needs to remain one.

“The officers’ training course has a waiting list from here until next season, with soldiers motivated to serve in combat roles. Not only is the motivation steady to serve in the IDF and specifically in combat units, but for some roles – the infantry – it even went up.”

Aviv Kohavi

“The officers’ training course has a waiting list from here until next season, with soldiers motivated to serve in combat roles. Not only is the motivation steady to serve in the IDF and specifically in combat units, but for some roles – the infantry – it even went up,” said Kohavi, adding that 85% of the nation, excluding the Arab and haredi sectors, serve in the IDF.

Halevi will have to find a way to start changing the phrase “excluding the Arab and haredi sectors” and work towards making the IDF a true people’s army.

That’s as important to the long-term survival of Israel as all of the IDF’s military hardware and technological knowhow combined.