Knesset panel: Why do Gantz, IDF ignore shortened men's service?

The committee criticized Gantz and the IDF for dragging their feet on implementing the decision to shorten men's service by two months, which was decided on in 2016.

An IDF soldier (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
An IDF soldier
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Several key members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Sunday criticized the IDF and Defense Minister Benny Gantz for dragging their feet on implementing a 2016 Knesset decision to shorten male recruits’ military service by two months.
The hearing saw some fascinating twists as the main Knesset critics were two retired senior IDF officers who were proponents of the push to reduce the length of male soldiers’ service from 32 months to 30 months.
Yesh Atid MK Orna Barbivai, the FADC subcommittee chairwoman for human resources and the first, and so far, the only Israeli woman to hold the rank of Major-General, slammed Gantz for playing politics.
“I was surprised that the defense minister has delayed his decision, despite the clear position of the IDF, led by the IDF chief. I understand that there are political pressures on the minister [Gantz] which, it seems, are seeping into and influencing his consideration of the matter,” said Barbivai.
She continued, “this also seems to be the reason for delaying the response to the High Court of Justice regarding the law for drafting [of Haredim into the IDF]. I call on the minister to act and formulate a serious and concrete position regarding the length of service issue” so that the Knesset can decide how to move forward.
It was unclear what agenda she thought Gantz had in avoiding taking a position, but after presumably showing more patience at a closed hearing in September, Barbivai’s patience was clearly exhausted.
She added that since Gantz was a former IDF chief of staff, he should not need an extended period to learn the complexities of the issue as if he was new to the matter.
Speculation could include simply being distracted by fights with Likud over a state budget and possible new elections, or could be more specific with Gantz being concerned at disappointing the public on the issue.
Like Barbivai, Meretz MK and former IDF deputy chief-of-staff Yair Golan said that the IDF’s protestations that it could not cope with such reductions in manpower flew in the face of a careful analysis of the issue.
Golan said that the IDF is investing too much in human resources and training and that the length of training could be shortened so that soldiers could be utilized for missions sooner in their service, and be released after 30 months instead of 32 months.
This was an interesting point since an IDF watchdog report has said that readiness and training are currently inadequate.
Golan also said that even if the IDF faced many challenges in 2020, now was still a period of relative calm compared to times of war or major terror waves and that it could afford to reduce the length of service while managing the current challenges.
In response, Defense Ministry Legal Adviser Eran Yosef apologized that Gantz had not reached a decision on his position but stated that, “with attention primarily on issues like corona, and emergency diplomatic and security issues, as well as the complex political situation, no conclusion has been reached on the matter.”
He said, however, that the current legal situation is clear, that unless the Knesset reverses its 2016 decision, the IDF must be ready to act in accordance with the new 30-month rule.
Representing the military’s view, Brig.-Gen. Amir Vadmoni said that the IDF strongly opposed the reduction to 30 months and asked the Knesset to reverse its decision. He said that the IDF’s current “Momentum” macro-plan to deal with long-term threats from Iran, Hezbollah, in Syria, Hamas and elsewhere required more, not fewer, soldiers.
When pressed that the growth in the general population meant that the IDF naturally now has more recruits, he responded by saying that reduced motivation to serve in combat units was overtaking any demographic trends.
He said that the IDF needed to both maintain 32 months of service and to add new incentives for citizens to join combat units and become officers to prevent the losing aspects of its readiness.
Along those lines, Vadmoni said that for now, the IDF would not change its plan along the 30-month model because the first time this might apply would be at the start of 2023.
He explained that only recruits drafted in July of this year were included in the Knesset’s 2016 decision, not soldiers drafted beforehand.