Reservists' NGO claims only 20 percent of all those who served in the reserves receive the "additional remuneration," a new benefit introduced in the 2008 Reserve Soldiers Law.
By DAN IZENBERGPublished: MAY 25, 2009 21:48Advertisement
A group of reserve soldiers on Monday withdrew its petition demanding that the army redistribute the "additional remuneration" it gives to reserve soldiers, after the High Court of Justice made it clear that it would reject it.
The petitioners, who belong to the nonprofit organization Baltam for Strengthening the Reserves, charged that according to the criteria established by the army, only 20 percent of all those who served in the reserves receive the "additional remuneration," a new benefit introduced in the 2008 Reserve Soldiers Law.
The remuneration was already distributed in 2007 and is due to be distributed for 2008. The criteria for distributing the benefit is based on how many days each reservist was in uniform during the year.
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, who headed a panel of three justices, told the petitioners she saw nothing wrong with the criteria.
"It's obvious that whoever is called up for many days is hurt more than someone called up for a few days," she said.
"You will have a hard time proving that the criteria are unreasonable to an extreme degree," added Justice Ayala Procaccia.
"A reservist who has to leave his home and work for a long period of time will have a great deal more trouble organizing himself than someone who leaves his regular life for a few days," she said. "On the contrary, you would have a hard time justifying the distribution if those who served lengthy periods and those who served short periods received the same amount of money.
According to the criteria established by the army for the year 2007 a soldier had to serve a minimum of 23 days to receive the "additional remuneration." As the number of days increased from the 23-day minimum, so did the amount of money paid.
However, the state's representative, attorney Gilad Shirman, told the court that in 2008, the minimum number of days that had to be served in order to be eligible for the "additional remuneration" had dropped to 18 and was expected to further decline to 16 in 2009.
The minimum number of days required in order to receive the additional remuneration is a variable determined by how much money the army allocates each year for the special grant and the number of days each reservist has served.
But the petitioners' lawyer, Shai Dadon, told the court that the army should define a "significant period of service" as being a minimum of 10 days rather than 16, 18 or 23. This figure, indeed, is what a ministerial committee responsible for the affairs of reserve soldiers set as the minimum amount of days of service required to make reservists eligible for various other government benefits provided for in the 2008 Reserve Soldiers Law.
The judges rejected Dadon's request, however, taking note of the fact that the threshold for eligibility for the "additional remuneration" was continuously dropping.
"It's true that the 'special remuneration' has its dangers, but by the same token, the system can also work for the benefit of the reservists, as it has so far," Beinisch told Dadon.
Ro'i Ron, head of Baltam, told The Jerusalem Post afterwards that if the court would have allowed him to, he could have proven that 80 percent of all reserve soldiers will not get anything from the "additional remuneration."
"Had it done so, the court would have made a different decision," he said.
Nevertheless, Ron said his organization would keep a close eye on how many days of service are required in the future to be make reservists eligible for the "additional remuneration" and that if it does not continue to decline, the option of another petition next year remains open.
Secondly, he said the organization was considering petitioning the High Court against the government for allegedly failing to make available all the benefits to reserve soldiers that it promised.
"The government has only kept 40 percent of the promise," he charged, a figure disputed by the state's attorney, Shirman.
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