'Reservists made to feel like suckers'

Chief Reserve Officer: Only two out of 10 Israeli men serve in the reserves.

reserve soldiers298 88aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
reserve soldiers298 88aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israelis who serve in the reserves are a rarity and lack the support of their social surroundings, Chief Reserve Officer Brig.-Gen. Danny Van Buren told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "Only a small percentage of Israeli society serves in the reserves," Van Buren said in an interview in honor of IDF Reserves Appreciation Day on Tuesday. "If you take 10 random men, you will find that maybe two serve in the reserves." Reservists, Van Buren claimed, were made to feel like "suckers" by Israeli society, which had failed in recent years to see the value of and appreciate reserve military service. "Society no longer supports people serving in the reserves, and the reservists themselves are made to feel like they are being used," he said. "This is why we need to have an IDF Reserves Appreciation Day." To encourage people to continue serving in the reserves, the IDF over the past few weeks has published ads in daily newspapers and at bus stops throughout the country expressing its appreciation to the men and women who take time out of their lives to contribute to the state. "We need to get the nation's attention and make people understand and appreciate the reservists' sacrifices and contributions," Van Buren explained. But in addition to planning Tuesday's special events, including a ceremony at Beit Hanassi, Van Buren is also responsible for overseeing the implementation of a new set of reforms in reserve service, which have already begun to drastically decrease the number of reservists called up. According to the reform, which has already passed a first reading in the Knesset, reservists will only be called up for 14 days of service over three years, and only for training - not to man settlement watchtowers, the most common reserve service in recent years. Instead of the reservists, Van Buren said, the army will use career officers and conscript soldiers to carry out the jobs reservists used to perform. The army also plans to begin sending thousands of discharge orders to reservists, some younger than 40, informing them that they are exempt from reserve duty. "The IDF will only take those soldiers which it needs during a state of emergency," he explained. "The army no longer needs everyone, and part of creating a more effective reserve force is discharging some of the reservists." A withdrawal from the West Bank under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's convergence plan, Van Buren added, would challenge the reserves and pose serious moral dilemmas for religious reservists. "Political and ideological difficulties are not foreign to reservists," he said. "People feel free to speak about things in the reserves... but in the end, if we are assigned a mission, we will know how to fulfill it."