IDF: Most Israelis won't serve in military by 2020

Defense Minister Ehud Barak watches a new recruit get his shots at the Tel Hashomer Induction Center. (Flash 90)

JERUSALEM (JWN)—By the end of the decade 60 percent of Israelis will not be serving in the Israel Defense Forces, according to the head of the IDF Manpower Branch, Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai.

Contrary to the traditional image of the IDF as a people’s army, Barbivai told reporters that every other Israeli of both genders already does not serve in the IDF today. She noted that about 40 percent of women dodge the draft, most of the claiming exemptions on religious grounds. Some 25 percent of Israeli males avoid the draft, most on the same basis.

Last year the IDF caught more than 1,000 women draft dodgers who falsely claimed religious exemptions. One woman who claimed to be observant posted a photo on Facebook of herself eating in a non-kosher restaurant. Other draft-dodging women were caught after posting photos of themselves in immodest clothing.

Barbivai said draft dodging is expected to rise in the coming years due to the increase in the ultra-Orthodox population. The largest number of religious exemptions for males is given to the haredi sector, which constitutes 13% of the draft dodgers. Some six percent of males receive medical exemptions each year, half of them for mental illnesses.

Contrary to the ultra-Orthodox, mainstream observant males are highly motivated to serve, Barbivai said. She noted that the IDF has found that the highest motivation to serve in combat units (61%) is among Jewish youth from religious settlements in the West Bank. This is in comparison to the largely secular metropolitan Tel Aviv region, where only 36% ask to serve in combat units. In second place is Jerusalem, where 52% of draftees ask to serve in combat units.