IDF mulling new enlistment method

Bereaved parents will be able to veto children's combat service.

Assaf Ramon funeral 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
Assaf Ramon funeral 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
The procedure for allowing children or siblings of those who were killed in action to join combat units could change in the near future, IDF representatives told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.
For decades, parents in families that had lost a parent or child during IDF service have been faced with the dilemma of whether or not to sign a waiver that would allow a surviving child who wants to join a combat unit to do so.
Following a Knesset debate held months ago in the shadow of the training death of IDF pilot Lt. Asaf Ramon, son of astronaut Ilan Ramon, the IDF began a series of meetings with representatives of bereaved families' organizations to reassess the procedure.
During a meeting held in late September, bereaved parents spoke of the psychological trauma involved in deciding whether or not to give the required permission. In some cases, they said, if the child is then killed during service, the parents feel that they are responsible for the child's death.
Col. Yair Ben-Shalom, the IDF's Chief Casualties Officer, told the committee that the IDF had drawn up a new plan, in which any parent wishing to veto a child's decision to join a combat unit could do so, but initial participation would not require a waiver.
The goal, said Col. Ben-Shalom, was to "take the process out of the parents' hands, and hold a long dialogue between senior casualty officers and the draft candidate regarding their service choice. Parents would still have the right to veto the choice, including while the child is in active service."
The draft candidate would receive a draft order, with a list of possible professions offered. Combat service would not appear on the list.
"Instead, the candidate would be required to verbally state their desire to volunteer to combat service, and a second list of positions would be sent," Ben-Shalom said.
The current process requires that the parents sign a waiver at the beginning of the child's enlistment process. Every year, said Ben-Shalom, around 250 children of bereaved families are drafted, of whom approximately 40 volunteer for combat service.
Around four to five families annually refuse to sign the waver, despite their children's desire to serve in a combat unit.
During the Second Lebanon War, said Ben-Shalom, there were four cases in which bereaved parents asked the IDF to take their children out of combat service in Lebanon, and the army acceded to their requests.
Despite the proposed reform, representatives of bereaved families said that the process was still far from perfect.
Nava Shoham, chairwoman of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization said that "no solution is good for everyone" but that, in this case, "a passive action is certainly easier than an active one."
Shoham added that an internal survey conducted by her organization showed that 82% of IDF widows oppose the current policy, in which they have to decide whether or not to allow their children to serve in combat units.