“After the Sukkot holiday, we will form a government committee dedicated to national service and state reform, which I am working on and which the defense establishment has been working on for over a year,” Gantz said. during a meeting with religious. soldiers in honor of the weeklong festival.
Gantz and his ministry director general, Amir Eshel, have both spoken out in favor of a universal national service model to replace the current system, which exempts Arab Israelis and nearly all ultra-Orthodox Israelis from having to perform military or civilian tasks. service.
Gantz said this reform is necessary both to preserve the Israel Defense Forces as a “people’s army,” in which every citizen, regardless of their background, is expected to serve, and to strengthen the country in general. .
“With the founding of the country, the Israeli army was also founded and conscription was required from everyone. Now, 73 years later, with only half of 18-year-olds enlisting and the country shifting from a melting-pot policy to a nation of “all tribes”, we must develop a different model, ”Gantz said.
In recent years, growing voices in Israel have called on the IDF to convert to a volunteer professional army, claiming this is both more effective and more in line with the country’s current, more pro-capitalist nature. -Marlet.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks with IDF soldiers studying in ultra-Orthodox seminars during a Sukkot holiday event at Kirya army headquarters in Tel Aviv on September 23, 2021 (Tal Oz / Ministry of Defense)
The defense minister said he wanted to generally maintain the conscription model to “keep the IDF as a people’s army, a strong and diverse army,” but acknowledged that a significant percentage of Israelis do not. would like to fight there and that other service options were needed, in part to develop professional skills.
“Alongside the People’s Army, we will train security and civilian service tracks, for those for whom military service is not appropriate, but who can still connect and strengthen the country through charitable organizations, community support and learning life skills and professions, ”he said.
Many scholars from ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israeli societies have in the past expressed skepticism of Gantz’s proposals, believing that these communities, which – for various reasons – generally do not feel closely connected to the state, would be unlikely to voluntarily perform national service. .
“There is no better alternative and I intend to act and do whatever is necessary to make this reform go forward,” he said.
Last month, Gantz told reporters he believed that if the issue was not resolved within the next decade, Israel would indeed transition to a professional volunteer army.
“The goal is to get over 70% of people to serve each year, whereas today we only have about 50%,” Gantz told reporters last month.
Gantz’s comprehensive plan for national service, which he released earlier this year, would ultimately require all Israelis to perform some form of national service after high school, unless some exceptional reason prevents it.
According to this proposal, the military would have the first choice of recruits and the others would fulfill other roles in security and public service, in the police, in hospitals, in schools, etc.
Everyone would be required to complete two years of national service. That would further reduce military service, a move that is sure to come under criticism from the IDF, which already opposes the current two-year and six-month length of service for men, up from three years. before 2015.
This model was largely developed by a group called Pnima, which was recently led by the Director General of the Gantz Ministry, Major General (res.) Amir Eshel, and with whom Gantz has also been involved. Michael Biton, Minister of Strategic Affairs at the Defense Ministry until 2018, who was also involved in Pnima, led the team that drew up the proposal, which included representatives from the Defense Ministry, the IDF and the IDF. other government departments.
So far, even the most ambitious proposals that have been seriously considered by the country’s governments have not called for the full conscription of all ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis, as this plan does.