In the end of the blazing Israeli summer in September 2015 and after seven years of military service I demobilized from the IDF. In my years of service, I went through three military operations in Gaza and an unstable “routine” on the Lebanese border. I encountered the vast variety of Israelis, Jews and non-Jews, and experienced personal and professional triumphs and defeats.
In this short entry, I’ll attempt to explain why in my opinion the “melting pot” of the mandatory conscription has bankrupt both morally and utilitarianly.
According to formal military HR department data in 2015, just 67% of the Jewish youth enlists in the military (less than 50% of all Israeli youth population) compared to 75% in the early 90s. The rest is exempt mainly because of religiosity. Formal expectation of enlistment in the upcoming years are much lower, due to the fact that every third child beginning first class in Israel is Haredi (orthodox Jews). In 2059, according to Israeli Statistics Bureau, Haredi’s and Arabs will comprise more than 50% of Israeli population. Most of the Haredi’s and Arabs do not serve in the military.
Moreover, more than one-third of Jewish-Israeli girls doesn’t serve because of religiosity, more than religious Jewish females share in Israel. This is a de-facto bankruptcy of military exemptions mechanism.
Within these numbers, we cannot maintain fair and moral mandatory conscription and should consider alternative professional and semi-professional military models. In my view, and following my military experience, I believe that a good sensible solution is a semi-professional model that provides entirely Israeli security needs and promotes freedom, fairness and strong civil society. Furthermore, this proposed model solves inefficient utilization of manpower and promotes integrating of Haredi’s and Israeli Arabs into Israeli society, which will immensely develop the Israeli economy and will contribute to the aggregated welfare.
In this model a young Israeli person, Jew or Arab, religious, or secular, will appear before a joint committee that will decide with regard to his preferences whether he will serve in the military, national or civil duty. The parameters are motivation, fitness (combat units), smarts (staff and intelligence units) and mental health. The committee will decide upon military enlistment within quotas (considering reserves) that are set by the Security Cabinet in the Prime Minister office and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, after a strategic meticulous planning. The rest will go, because of their preferences or quotas, to national or civil duty. That does not mean that rich could “ditch” military service (as known to be a social ladder) – the last decision is of the committee.
By large, most of the Israeli-Arab and Haredi population will join the national or civil duty (volunteer work) and will contribute to the society, contradictory to the situation nowadays. Also, it will solve the issue of pacifists, that morally in a freedom loving society have the right to object to military service.
The ones who will join the military a vast compensation will be given – a true salary (and not “pocket change” allowance), in-service benefits and benefits upon demobilization in order to make it worthwhile to risk their lives. Also, combat unit soldiers in the field must be given more benefits than an economist at Army HQ inTel Aviv.
At the same time, the military should embark on a large-scale efficiency improvement program and promote out-sourcing for non-essential military services, e.g constructions, education, military radio, Rabbinate, and unclassified technological services. A modular model for staff units can be tested – part time university students and project oriented recruitment. Moreover, the military should promote a comprehensive professional career oriented academic education mechanism for officers like West Point and not a four month of courses like in the current system.
The opponents of such a change are worried that Israeli Army will dwindle and become ineffective. Observing the professional militaries in the US and Europe, they are plainly wrong. US army volunteer enlistment are enough to sustain the strongest military in human history that operates in similar enemy environments and challenges (Iraq and Afghanistan). Another claim is that a professional military would not be honored by the civilians – this is false, you need just hear the grateful words “thank you for your service” in the US. And the last main concern is that the poor will fight for the rich like in the US. Again, false statement – contrary to popular belief, US army soldiers are not the poorest and uneducated young people but they have the same profile as the average American. Moreover, the percentage of recruits from the poorest American neighborhoods declined rapidly in recent years.
Israel is a militarized country due to ongoing national conflict with the Palestinians and terror groups bordering Israel (Hezbollah and ISIS). And yet Israel succeeded building a strong economy and a vibrant democratic country to all its civilians – Jews and Arabs. But the burden of army service can be reduced in such a way that fundamental freedoms are not violated and a more smart, agile, and intelligent army is designed. Each freedom loving Israeli that wishes Israeli prosperity and survival, should advocate for an army of this kind.