Opinion: Incoming coalition’s demands to de-facto dismantle the ‘army of the people’ model will rid the military of its brightest minds and trample on motivation of those who will be left

The new government is positioning the IDF to face three major challenges in its relationship with the Israeli society, which could prove to be an existential threat for the State of Israel.

The first challenge stems from the potential shift from being an “army of the people,” made up of the entirety of the population who get drafted regardless of their sex, gender or religion, to a professional military.

המתגייסים החדשים מתחיילים
IDF expanding its recruitment program for handicapped youth (Photo: Shiran Alderi)


This proposal is based on four principles: One, there is already a decline in the number of people willingly getting enlisted as part of the mandatory conscription; Two, the “army of the people” model is no longer relevant, and currently it naturally discriminates between different populations in its enlistment process; Third, in an era in which all-out wars have become outdated, such a large military is unnecessary; Fourth, since today’s operational activity is essentially “policing,” it is preferable that it be done only by professionals.

These assumptions are incorrect and invalid!

Contrary to these claims, the IDF is still very much an “army of the people.” With the exception of the ultra-Orthodox population, the enlistment rate among males is 85%, including those from high socioeconomic sectors of society.

If you’re still not convinced – here are three substantial reasons why keeping the existing IDF model is preferable.

The first is a quantitative reason. The IDF, mostly its ground forces, still relies on the conscription. These soldiers then become reserve troops. Without the mandatory draft, the IDF would not have its reserves. It will be impossible to establish a professional army big enough to fill the roles of the reserves.

השבוע השני של תרגיל "מרכבות האש"
IDF reserves training (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)


The second reason is qualitative. Without the mandatory draft, the IDF would have a much smaller pool of elite soldiers to choose from, including pilots, intelligence forces, officers, etc. All the genius young minds at the IDF’s disposal today, would no longer be available.

The third reason is financial. The “army of the people” model is incredibly effective. Through this model, it is possible to grow a reserve division from 100 soldiers to 10,000 within 24 hours.

The second challenge stems not only from the proposed legislation that would exempt those unwilling to serve from military service. But, also from the fact that while the 21-year-old discharged soldiers are forced to face hardships of the real world, yeshiva students are promised a steady income just because they are religious.

Therefore, this goes beyond the claim that studying in yeshiva is just as important as serving in the IDF, as MK Moshe Gafni argued, and becomes an issue of discrimination that will directly influences motivation to serve.

Yeshiva students
Yeshiva students (Photo: Amit Shaabi)


The third challenge is the attempt to undermine the unity of command in the army.

When I was a commanding officer 50 years ago, us, five officers in the company were the only ones who had access to outside communication networks. Meaning, the only communication that the soldiers heard was the company’s radio. The objective circumstance of modern world are much more complicated, and are being manipulated by parties who want to create a buffer between commanders and soldiers – whether it’s by giving money to soldiers who violate orders or by defaming the commanders of those soldiers.

This dangerous campaign is being led by ministers who will be sworn in tomorrow.

Yes, the IDF Chief of Staff is subject to the government and, of course, to the law. But, the ultimate control over the IDF has always been in his hands.

הערכות מצב בעקבות מבצע "עלות השחר"
Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi; Far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) leader Itamar Ben-Gvir (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit; Amit Shaabi)


Political actors were never given authority to dictate over the chief of staff, and decide what generals and officers should be appointed.
Political actors were never given authority to dictate regulations for opening fire, and Border Police troops never had the authority to operate in the West Bank without full military command.

These three demands – dismantle the “army of the people” model, exempt and financially bolster those who don’t want to serve while neglecting those who do, and disassemble the military chain of command – will create an existential threat not just for the military, but for all of Israel.

As reported by Ynetnews