In light of the current discussions on the draft law, voices are heard regarding the transition to a professional army model. This move will nullify the principle of the “People’s Army” on which David Ben-Gurion relies and may even sabotage the IDF’s human advantage, ensure suitable conditions for those recruited for meaningful service and open a wide door to civil service
In the background of the discussion in the draft law, voices are heard regarding the need to switch to an army model on a voluntary-professional basis, while revoking the draft law. With the establishment of the IDF, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion outlined the principle of “the people’s army,” according to which enlistment in the army would apply to all of them, because the IDF is a full partner in the process of nation-building. Thus, in the spirit of Ben-Gurion’s vision, the army, in addition to its role as protector of the people and the state, joined other roles such as immigrant absorption, education in the ma’abarot, development of settlements and strengthening weakened populations.
After the War of Independence, the army was required to prepare for the “second round” while reducing the number of regular personnel. In order to combine the need for a large military force with the ability to maintain such power in a country that was just born, the reserve army was established as the national crushing force. A compulsory service is compulsory for all (apparently), in the course of which the servants remain part of the reserve army and are called to service as necessary.
Despite the will of the founding fathers, the burden has never been equal. There were those who contributed to the security of the country and there were those who watched from the sidelines. Over the years, there has been a discourse of “equality of burden”. From the voices calling for full equality, including the service of Arab citizens exempt from enlistment, to the ultra-Orthodox and the issue of “Torah art”. In recent years, in light of the accuracy of the draft law, the issue was again raised with the claim that the model of the people’s army is irrelevant and that the IDF must become a professional army as in many Western countries
The burden has never been egalitarian (Photo: Reuters)
First, the fact that the IDF enjoys the pool of brains and capabilities of the entire Israeli society at its disposal is part of the power multiplier that enables it to have the human advantage – both in terms of command and technology. At the same time, it is necessary to preserve this human advantage. Experience shows that conscripts to professional armies are not the first rank of the company. If the service is not perceived as an important and central value, it directly affects the willingness to serve.
In addition, the regular army, and no less than the reserves, constitute a unifying factor and a “melting pot” for Israeli society. The IDF was the place where different populations met and worked together to get to know each other and create a common and unifying reality, all of which would be lost if the principle of “the people’s army” was played and replaced by a professional army.
It is possible to characterize three main principles that will help continue the model of the people’s army, including the need to share in the duties and actions of all segments of the population, the need to honor the servants, with an emphasis on combatants.
An advantage for recruits for combat service
True, not everyone is able or suitable to serve in the IDF, especially since the expected increase in the recruitment cycle creates a load of manpower required for the IDF in the coming years. The national service will be able to provide a response to these populations, and the principle will be simple: The IDF first chooses those who enlist in its services according to its needs, while the others, including Haredim and Arabs, will be recruited for civilian service. Schools, hospitals and nursing homes and a variety of activities that contribute to the community and society.
There should be a significant and visible difference between those who served in the national or civilian form or in the rear positions in the IDF, and those who served as fighters or supporters fighting.
Combatants and combat supporters should be rewarded (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)
There will be no room for any claims of discrimination or discrimination, since the door is open to everyone for combat service and in accordance with receiving compensation and improved conditions within and after the service, as is happening partially today.
It can be assumed that not everyone will immediately adopt this proposal, but we believe that the three principles set forth are correct, worthy and can serve as a basis for agreement between all the Zionist parties in the coalition and in the opposition. After the principles and rules are finalized, it will be possible to argue over the details: What national service? Who will approve the content? What is meaningful service? As well as the ranking among the employees in the various units.
In conclusion, we have the opportunity to bring about change, to narrow gaps and indeed to advance the principle of “equality of burden” while preserving the people’s army.
The column was written by Dr. and Col. (res.) Gabi Siboni, and Colonel (res.) Erez Wiener, the military commentator for Channel 20
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